Doubles partners face each other in singles

Normally, when Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova are on the

tennis court together, it’s them against the world.

On Tuesday, it was friend vs. friend.

The 2010 Wimbledon and U.S. Open doubles champions got the worst

of all conceivable singles draws at Flushing Meadows this year,

forced to play each other in the first round.

Shvedova won 6-4, 6-2. Her reaction afterward said it all.

”It was horrible,” she said.

Seeded fifth this year at the U.S. Open, they aren’t the first

doubles partners forced to play face each other in singles. There

was a time, for instance, when Venus and Serena Williams made a

habit of it, with much more at stake than a trip to the second

round.

But the fact that King and Shvedova have come so far together –

to say nothing of the fact that they’re in that rare group of women

who make 20-30 percent of their prize money playing doubles – made

this matchup all the more poignant – and uncomfortable.

”We’ve laughed together and cried together and had some very

good times together,” King said.

They met as teenagers on the tennis circuit, both traveling with

their fathers and looking for a friendly face and someone to talk

to about life on the road with dad. The bond was formed and not

long after, a very good doubles team developed, as well.

They have four titles together, including Wimbledon and the U.S.

Open two years ago. Last year, they returned to the final at

Flushing Meadows but lost in a third-set tiebreaker.

So far in 2012, Shvedova is grabbing more headlines than her

partner in singles. She’s ranked 45th and made it to the

quarterfinals of the French Open. Then, at Wimbledon, she became

the first woman in 44 years of professional tennis to win a

”golden set” – six straight games without dropping a point.

King, ranked 52nd, said both players always knew this sort of

meeting could come up. They had never played each other as pros,

though they certainly know each other inside and out.

”I know where she’s going to go here, where she’s going to go

there,” King said. ”But can I run that ball down? No, I couldn’t,

because she hit it too fast. Even if you know the person like the

palm of your hand, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win.”

Both players conceded they couldn’t wait for the meeting on

Court 11 to be over. Beforehand, they made a little side bet.

Winner – not loser – had to buy the drinks the next time they’re

out on the town.

King lost the match, won the bet.

”I said, `Sorry, Vania,”’ Shvedova said of their brief

conversation at the net when it was over. ”She told me it was a

very hard match to play and I told her it was exactly the same for

me.”

Both players admitted they nearly cried at the end.

But there’s no more need for tears. On Wednesday, the next time

they walk on the court together, they’ll be a doubles team

again.

”It’s not easy to play against your friend,” King said. ”But

your personality is tested when you’re under pressure like this.

And our friendship gets stronger because of something like

this.”