Saturday School: How many players have won the Madrid-Rome double?

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The second Masters tournament and the third Premier Mandatory tournament will begin next week at Madrid. The Mutua Madrid Masters, followed by the International BNL d’Italia at Rome is the second time when two back-to-back Masters tournaments will be in action this year. People have often talked about completing the Sunshine Double as one of the most phenomenal achievements in a player’s career but little is talked about completing the Madrid-Rome double.
While the Rome Masters is played on clay ever since its inception, the Madrid Masters changed from Hard court to Clay court in 2009. Since Madrid was played on hard turf, it was scheduled in mid-October initially. In 2009, when Madrid changed its turf to clay, it was scheduled for mid-May. This saw the Rome Masters take place first followed by a week’s gap before the Madrid Masters begin. It was in 2011 when the Madrid and Rome Masters took place in back-to-back weeks.
There are only three instances where a player has won both the Rome and Madrid Masters in back-to-back weeks. There are four other instances where a player has won the Rome and Madrid Masters separated by a week’s gap or more. Here is the chronological order:
 
Andre Agassi – 2002 
 
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Andre Agassi began his 2002 season ranked third and finished second by the end of the year. He won 5 titles that year (tied with Lleyton Hewitt). The American lifted the Rome Masters trophy, defeating Tommy Haas in straight sets in a best of 5 sets final. Things were easier for the American at Madrid as his opponent Jiri Novak retired and gave Agassi a walkover to the Madrid title. It was the first and only walkover in a final in the history of Madrid Masters.
Rafael Nadal – 2005
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer reached 24 finals and shared 22 titles between them in 2005, winning 11 titles each. This was the year when Rafa Nadal came in the limelight. Compared to his ranking at the start of the year, the Spaniard jumped 49 spots to finish as the second best player in 2005. He won the Rome Masters defeating Guillermo Coria in a match where the fifth set was decided in a tiebreak. A similar scenario repeated for Nadal at the Madrid Masters as well. He won the fifth set tiebreak against Ljubicic to claim the title.
Dinara Safina -2009
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Dinara Safina began her 2009 season ranked first and ended her season ranked second, being dethroned by Serena Williams. Safina and Williams were engaged in a constant tussle for the World No.1 spot throughout the year. Though Safina held the No.1 ranking for a major portion of the year, it was Serena who won the race in the last minute. Safina reached 8 finals in 2009, two of which came at Australian Open and French Open. She defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets in Rome and a week later, defeated Caroline Wozniacki for the Rome title. In the process, she became the first woman to achieve the Madrid-Rome double on clay.
Rafa Nadal -2010
2010 was one of the best years in Nadal’s career. He won a whooping 12,450 points in a year by reaching 9 finals and winning 7 of them. He also replaced Roger Federer as the World No.1 by the end of the year. At Rome, Nadal defeated his compatriot David Ferrer in straight sets to win his 5th title at Rome. He faced Roger Federer in the Madrid Masters and defeated him in straight sets as well to win his second title at Rome.
Novak Djokovic – 2011
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In July, Novak Djokovic replaced Rafa Nadal as the World No.1. Djokovic had a stellar year, winning 10 of the 11 finals he reached in 2011. Djokovic completed the herculean task of defeating Rafa Nadal on clay twice in back-to-back Masters Final . Nadal did win the Roland Garros that year but Djokovic won the rest of the slams. This was also the first time when Madrid and Rome Masters took place in back-to-back weeks and Djokovic became the first player to win them in such fashion.
Rafa Nadal – 2013
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Yet again, it was Nadal’s time to roar. The Spaniard accumulated 13,030 points, reaching 14 finals and winning 10 of them. Nadal ascended to the No.1 rankings yet again after finishing 2012 as the 4th ranked player. In Rome and Madrid he defeated two Swiss men in straight sets to clinch the title. At Madrid, he defeated Stanislas Wawrinka whereas at Rome he defeated Roger Federer.
Serena Williams – 2013
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When Nadal was busy winning the Madrid-Rome double for the third time, it was Serena Williams who became only the second woman to win both the titles at Madrid and Rome and the first lady to win it in back-to-back weeks. Serena won her second Roland Garros title and her 5th US Open title that year. She replaced Azarenka at the year-end No.1 rankings which she justified by winning 11 titles in the season. At Madrid and Rome she defeated Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka respectively in straight sets.
After 2013, no man or woman has won the Madrid-Rome double. Considering Rafa Nadal’s form on clay this year and a very few players capable of challenging his command on clay, we might see him claim the Madrid-Rome double for a record fourth time. In the woman’s section, Simona Halep will bid for a third consecutive title at Madrid but is yet to make a finals appearance at Rome. Serena Williams pulled out of the Madrid Masters which means based on their tournament history, Azarenka, Sharapova and Kvitova have the best chance to complete the Madrid-Rome double. However, with players like Jelena Ostapenko, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina in the mix and Halep and Wozniacki vying for the No.1 spot in the rankings, things might get a lot more competitive in the ladies’ event in the upcoming two weeks.

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