After months of inactivity on the tennis tour, including the cancellation of Wimbledon and the postponement of the French Open, the US Open finally is underway in New York.
The tournament looks dramatically different because of the coronavirus pandemic, with no qualifying events or fans allowed on-site and a large number of the sport's best players not participating. Plus, the restrictions and changes have resulted in some new faces and pairings in the doubles draws.
The mixed doubles event has been canceled, but there still are some incredible -- and occasionally unexpected -- partnerships to get excited about. With due respect to last year's champions -- women's champions Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka and men's champions Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah -- here are some of our favorite pairs who have the chance to win their first US Open title together.
This is one of the few doubles pairings that needs no introduction. The teenage duo -- better known collectively as McCoco -- became a sensation in 2019, and McCoco's matches have become can't-miss events. During their third-round run in last year's US Open and their quarterfinal bid in this year's Australian Open, the crowds were standing-room-only, and fans flocked from all over the grounds just to catch a glimpse.
Together, this pair won the Washington Open and the Luxembourg Open, both in 2019, and with so many doubles teams constantly shifting, they are one of the more established pairs in the tournament, despite their ages. After Gauff lost in the first round of singles on Monday, marking her earliest exit in a major, doubles will be her sole focus.
"I'm still in doubles here, so I'll be here hopefully 'til the end," she said after the loss. "That's the goal."
Gauff, 16, and McNally, 18, are good friends and always seem to genuinely enjoy their time together on the court. They even have an elaborate victory celebration.
"Caty and I have a close relationship," Gauff said during the Australian Open. "Basically, we're best friends on and off the court. We have a lot of fun."
Although no doubles team of late has benefited from the crowd more than McCoco, the pair played in the Top Seed Open and the Western & Southern Open leading into this major, so they have experience in the fan-less environment. Plus, if anyone can have fun under the strange conditions, it's these two.
What's better than one Australian Open champion? How about two Australian Open champions -- exactly what you get with this pairing. Azarenka won back-to-back singles titles in Melbourne in 2012 and 2013, and Kenin won her maiden Slam in February. Together these two, who made their debut as a team at last week's Western & Southern Open, bring their winning ways and a whole lot of intensity. Both are known for their serious on-court fire and antics, and it will be interesting to see what they bring out of one another. Not to mention, Azarenka won the singles trophy during last week's event, marking her biggest title since 2016, so both have some momentum.
Azarenka was a runner-up in doubles during the 2019 tournament alongside partner Ashleigh Barty, and Kenin won two doubles titles in 2019 with partners Eugenie Bouchard and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. This duo promises to bring exciting tennis and some GIF-worthy moments.
Few doubles teams go quite as far back as these two, who have been playing with and against one another since their junior days as preteens in their native Nebraska. They made their tour-level debut as a team during the 2011 US Open and have played occasionally together since -- including winning the 2018 title at Delray Beach.
Sock is a three-time major doubles champion, having won at Wimbledon twice (2014 and 2018) and the US Open in 2018. Withrow hasn't quite had the same success, but he earned his best result during the 2019 tournament with Sock when the reunited pair -- who refer to themselves as "Wock" -- advanced to the quarterfinals and upset Mike and Bob Bryan in the third round.
Withrow is slated to be the co-best man in Sock's upcoming nuptials (John Isner and Nick Kyrgios reportedly will be groomsmen), so you have to think some shiny new hardware would be a heck of an early wedding present to get Sock.
Townsend had one of the most memorable moments of the 2019 US Open when she knocked off fourth-seeded Simona Halep in the second round in front of a roaring crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Although her hopes of making another deep run in singles this year were dashed on Tuesday, she can pour all of her focus into doubles this time around.
Townsend and Muhammad won the Oracle Challenger Series event at Indian Wells the day before the season was suspended, and they're hoping to continue their hot start after an extended break. They advanced to the quarterfinals in their most recent appearance together at the US Open in 2016.
In fun fact news, Muhammad is the older sister of former NBA player Shabazz Muhammad, who currently plays in the Chinese Basketball Association, and the niece of former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Stephone Paige.
The Bryan Brothers are enjoying the retired life, but for all those looking for siblings to fill that void, look no further. And while those certainly are big shoes to fill, the Harrison brothers played together in Queens during the 2012 tournament and made it to the quarterfinals. Ryan also won the French Open doubles title in 2017, so they've got some decent credentials.
Ryan, 28, was a highly regarded junior player who has never quite lived up to the hype as a professional but has found more success in doubles. Christian, 26, has played sparingly on the ATP Tour but was a member of the San Diego Aviators during the World TeamTennis season alongside Ryan. So while they might not have that much experience playing together at majors, you can't argue with their lifelong history and familiarity with one another.
And if you're not quite sold on these two, or are just like -- "Yeah, but are they related to anyone else on tour?" -- we've got good news for you. Ryan is married to Christina McHale's sister Lauren.
These two have been playing together, on and off, for more than two years, and their experience together shows. They advanced to the quarterfinals in Melbourne this year and made it to the Cincinnati final in 2018. And their history goes back even further: Brady was teammates with Dolehide's sister Courtney at UCLA.
Brady is riding a serious hot streak, having won the Top Seed Open earlier this month, and both will be playing singles and doubles this week. Since both are sponsored by Asics, they are one of the few teams who are typically in coordinated outfits, and that really has to count for something.
The pair always look to be having a good time. As Dolehide wrote on her Instagram account last week: "Petition to mic us up." We can only dream.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Shuai Zhang
Easily one of the favorite pairs heading into the event despite losing their opener at the Western & Southern Open in three sets, both Mattek-Sands and Zhang are previous major doubles winners and know what it takes to be part of the last team standing. Mattek-Sands has won nine Grand Slam titles (five in doubles and four in mixed) and perhaps just as importantly, she is the Instagram queen (and it's not close), so expect plenty of behind-the-scenes content and ridiculous on-court selfies.
Dabrowski is a Canadian doubles specialist who played in the 2019 Wimbledon final (with partner Yi-Fan Xu) and has won nine WTA titles and two Grand Slam mixed doubles trophies. Riske is an American who had a monster 2019 season in singles and doubles and reached the doubles semifinals in Melbourne this year. They lost their debut match during last week's Western & Southern Open, but they still look to be serious contenders heading into the US Open.
And in addition to being great tennis players, both happen to be hilarious on social media. So if nothing else, bank on entertaining content on your Instagram and Twitter feeds during their run together.