Sunshine Double: Can Elena Rybakina join exclusive WTA list?
It might not be the level of a Major, but everyone in tennis wants to win a Sunshine Double. Following her win at Indian Wells last week, Elena Rybakina will get that chance at Miami.
Rybakina has certainly received a raw deal of late. She is a bona fide Major winner after taking the Wimbledon title last year. However, she was not rewarded as much as she should have been due to the tournament being stripped of ranking points.
She was then shunted to the outside courts at the Australian Open, which was very shoddy treatment of a reigning Wimbledon champion.
However, she has continued to power on and looks better than ever, and she will be in confident mood ahead of Miami. What kind of company will she join if she can win the Sunshine Double, though?
Steffi Graf – 1994 and 1996
Only three players have won multiple Sunshine Doubles, and few will be surprised to see Graf’s name among them.
The German was the dominant WTA force of the era, and she turned up at the 1994 Evert Cup, as Indian Wells was known as back then, as the top seed. She more than justified that tag too as she won the title without dropping a set.
She nearly repeated that in Miami too, but Natasha Zvereva won the first set in the final. Even that couldn’t knock Graf out of her stride, though, as she won the following two sets only losing three games along the way.
Graf made history in 1996 by becoming the first player to win the Sunshine Double twice, with Conchita Martinez and Chanda Rubin her victims in the respective finals.
Kim Clijsters – 2005
Seeing Kim Clijsters winning anything during this particular era in tennis should not surprise anyone, but what will come as a shock is that the Sunshine Double was a real underdog success story for the Belgian.
Injuries had decimated Clijsters’ ranking and by the time Indian Wells had come around she was 133 in the world.
She seriously proved her class, though, by first beating Elena Dementieva in the semi-finals before downing Lindsay Davenport in the final. It was not her first Indian Wells title, but it must have been her sweetest.
At Miami she beat four of the top five players in the world to win the tournament, with Anastasia Myskina, Elena Dementieva, Amelie Mauresmo, and Maria Sharapova all dismissed by Clijsters in straight sets.
Later that year, Clijsters would become a Grand Slam champion for the first time at the US Open.
Victoria Azarenka – 2016
Victoria Azarenka made it an ATP and WTA Sunshine Double-Double in 2016.
The Belarusian was in something of a decline at this point after suffering 18 months of injuries, but a quarter-final appearance at the Australian Open had raised hopes that she was coming back to something like her best.
Those hopes proved founded when she beat Serena Williams in the Indian Wells final and she backed that up with a win over Svetlana Kuznetsova to win Miami too and claim the prestigious Sunshine Double.
Iga Swiatek – 2022
The Pole came into the 2022 season with fans knowing full well she had the game to win at the highest level.
She already had a Roland Garros title from 2022 under her belt and a maiden WTA 1000 crown coming at the Italian Open in 2021, humiliating former world number one Karonlina Pliskova 6-0, 6-0 in the final.
However, both those tournaments are played on clay, arguably Swiatek’s best surface, with the consensus being she still had more to do on the hard courts.
She silenced the doubters early in 2022 though by winning the Qatar Open for her second WTA 1000 title and first on hard courts.
She then backed that up by winning Indian Wells to set up a shot at a historic Sunshine Double.
While Indian Wells proved tough at times, Swiatek was in full swing come Miami, clinching the title without dropping a set in a dominant run that extended her win streak starting from Qatar up to 17 victories.
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