Sunshine Double winners: Can Carlos Alcaraz join exclusive ATP list?
The Sunshine Double is perhaps not one of tennis’ most marquis accolades, but it is certainly one of the toughest to claim. It is also one that Carlos Alcaraz will have the chance to achieve this month.
You could argue that Alcaraz has already achieved it. After all, at the time of writing, Alcaraz is the holder of both the Miami Masters and Indian Wells titles. He just didn’t do it in the same year.
He will get the chance to earn a Sunshine Double proper when he defends his Miami title, as will Elena Rybakina, but what kind of company will they be joining should 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.
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.
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.
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