Sunshine Double: Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer among those to win one of tennis’ rarest accolades
We talk about records a lot in tennis, and that is testament to being around in an era that has produced the finest generation of talent the sport will ever see.
There is one select group of players who can claim to belong to a very exclusive and rarely talked-about club, though – and it is a group that Iga Swiatek was successful in joining in 2022.
The ‘Sunshine Double’ is the name given to those who win both Indian Wells and the Miami Open during the same season. So, just who has achieved it and how did they do it?
Jim Courier – 1991
Every achievement needs a trend-setter, and where the Sunshine Double is concerned that player was Jim Courier.
Courier was an emerging player when he arrived for the 1991 edition of Indian Wells – then called the Newsweek Champions Cup – but was just weeks away from his first Grand Slam title.
Andre Agassi, Emilio Sanchez, Michael Stich and Guy Forget all fell to the American though.
He had a much easier route at the Miami Open (Lipton International Players Championships), with Forget being the only opponent of note before beating David Wheaton in the final.
Michael Chang – 1992
While Courier’s achievement was unprecedented, Michael Chang proved it was not unrepeatable just a year later.
Chang took some time to get going at Indian Wells but he enjoyed himself against the Russians. He defeated Andrei Cherkasov in the last eight before steamrollering Andrei Chesnokov in the final.
Miami was a huge test for Chang, though, with Pete Sampras to overcome in the quarterfinals. He achieved that, and in straight sets no less, but defending champion and top seed Jim Courier was awaiting him in the semis.
Chang was up to that considerable challenge too, and he went on to beat Alberto Mancini in the final to claim a Sunshine Double.
Pete Sampras – 1994
Sampras had already won the 1994 Australian Open, so it came as little surprise to anyone to see him continue to dominate the outdoor hardcourt season.
His biggest test at Indian Wells that year was Stefan Edberg, and Sampras needed to be at his very best to overcome the Swede in a highly competitive semi-final. All that remained was to beat Petr Korda in the final, which he did to claim his first ever Indian Wells title.
Miami was tougher, with him having to beat Korda, Jim Courier and Andre Agassi to defend the title he won a year earlier.
Agassi looked like he was getting the better of him in the final and took the first set, but it was Sampras who came out on top.
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.
Marcelo Rios – 1998
By 1998, ATP Sunshine Doubles had become relatively common, although it was something that only American men had achieved.
The brilliantly bonkers Marcelo Rios put that right, though, and it is easy to forget just how good the Chilean was at his peak.
Petr Korda, who beat Rios in the Australian Open final, was defeated in the Indian Wells quarter-finals before Greg Rusedski – who had lost the US Open final a few months earlier – was overcome in the final.
Another British player, Tim Henman, was beaten by Rios at Miami before Andre Agassi loomed in the final. Rios was undeterred and beat the American to complete a Sunshine Double and take the world number one spot.
Andre Agassi – 2001
Agassi was a master at Miami, so it was probably only ever a matter of time before he won his very own Sunshine Double.
In 2001 though, Agassi was yet to win an Indian Wells title. He put that right in spectacular style, beating Lleyton Hewitt in the semis then Pete Sampras in the final to at last get his first title at the Tennis Garden.
Miami was never his problem, and when he beat Jan-Michael Gambill to take the 2001 title there, it was the fourth time he got his hands on the trophy. More importantly, it was his first – and only – Sunshine Double too.
Roger Federer – 2005, 2006, 2017
Winning one Sunshine Double is hard enough, and winning multiple Sunshine Doubles has proven next to impossible. Therefore, when Roger Federer won it back-to-back it was a stunning achievement.
He was made to do it the hard way too, beating Lleyton Hewitt )Indian Wells) and Rafael Nadal (Miami) in the finals in 2005.
A year later his path to successfully defending both titles was a lot kinder. James Blake, who is the current tournament director of the Miami Open, provided the opposition in the Indian Wells final but was completely outclassed.
In Miami, Federer’s now long-time coach Ivan Ljubicic was the man the Swiss star defeated in the final.
Incredibly, the Swiss achieved the feat once more 11 years later at the age of 35 after his improbable 2017 Australian Open title.
He defeated compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the Indian Wells final and long-time rival Nadal in the final of Miami.
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.
Novak Djokovic – 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016
The vast majority of players can’t win one Sunshine Double. A very select few can win multiple ones. Novak Djokovic has won four of them.
In truth, it is just one more record among many held by the Serbian, so it tends to get lost in the crowd, but it really shouldn’t.
Even more remarkably, for the first two of those Sunshine Doubles he had to beat Federer in the semi-final and then Nadal in the final. In the third, it was Federer then Andy Murray.
Djokovic has twice as many Sunshine Doubles to his name than anyone else, has had to beat the best to get them, and is the only person to win three in a row.
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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