Winning the Sunshine Double is one of the most demanding feats in tennis and only 10 players have managed to accomplish it.
So what makes the Sunshine Double such a difficult mission to accomplish?
The Roland Garros-Wimbledon double remains the biggest beast to tame on the calendar and only nine players (Bjorn Borg, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on the men’s side and Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams on the women’s tour) have produced the Herculean effort to win both tournaments in the same year.
Then you also have the back-to-back Canadian Open-Cincinnati Masters which also requires a strenuous effort to get through in two weeks.
However, the Sunshine double is like no other.
The Indian Wells Masters has been on the men’s calendar since 1974 while the Miami Open joined in 1985 to create the unique Sunshine Double.
It’s the reverse for the women as the Miami Open became part of the tour in 1985 while Indian Wells joined four years later.
To date, only seven men (Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, Marcelo Rios, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer (3) and Novak Djokovic(4)) and three women (Steffi Graf, Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka) have won the tournaments in the same year.
What exactly makes it so difficult?
For starters, one tournament takes place in the Golden State of California and the other in the Sunshine State of Florida so the travelling alone is pretty demanding.
There is, of course, also the small factor of the three-hour time zone difference between the two states.
Clijsters, who won the double in 2005, explained to wtatennis.com back in 2014 why it is so difficult to be at your best in both tournaments.
“The most obvious thing is the longevity of the trip. You’re hoping to play four weeks in a row, and that’s the biggest challenge of the trip,” she said.
“It’s a very long trip, and you’ve got to try to create the same feeling as if you are playing a Grand Slam. You’re playing one day, then one day off, then one day, then one day off, and so on. It’s a long trip. You’ve got to stay really focused.”
You also have the different conditions as at the start of March you are in the California desert where you will experience dry heat for the best part of two weeks.
As soon as you head east to Florida in the middle of the month, it becomes hot and humid.
Let’s not forget that the schedule is jam-packed. Unlike the other Masters 1000 and Premier Mandatory events, which runs from Monday to Sunday, both Indian Wells and Miami take place over two weeks.
So players generally have a bit more breathing space as the winners of the Indian Wells event usually only kicks off their Miami campaign six days later.
“I had learned from experience that, after winning one tournament, there’s a danger that you will lose your focus at your next one,” Clijsters added. “That’s something that I used on that long Indian Wells-Miami trip, because after that Indian Wells final you’re immediately into your next tournament in Miami. This is different to other trips.
“After I won the US Open, I didn’t care about doing my cool-down afterwards, or stretching, and that’s because you feel that you’re done. But on that Indian Wells-Miami trip, you have to think that after Indian Wells you’re going to be playing again very soon in Miami, and so any celebrations will have to come after the trip, and not between tournaments.”
But as Federer puts it, the Masters 1000s and the WTA Premier Mandatory draws are “brutal early on”.
“I know how hard it is to win back-to-back Indian Wells and Miami titles,” he told ATPWorldTour.com before he achieved the 2017 double.
“As we know in Masters 1000s, draws are brutal early on already. There is no warming up and playing qualifiers ranked No. 250, which even they are not easy to beat sometimes on any given day and especially in the best of three sets, the margins are small.”
Federer came up short of standing a chance to add a fourth double to his collection, but the man who beat him Sunday’s final, Dominic Thiem, will get a chance to join some illustrious company in Miami next week.
On the WTA side, Bianca Andreescu will look to become just the fourth woman to win the back-to-back titles after she won her maiden Premier Mandatory event by defeat three time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber.
But both Thiem and Andreescu will be wary that Sunshine Double is a tough nut to crack with the tournament taking place in the brand new Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, having left its Key Biscayne home after the 2018 event.
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