Your Daily Dose: Dynamic duos


The Williams sisters have always been double trouble: Hard to beat one after the other in the singles draw, incredible as a pair. “It’s really tough when you play one Williams,” Venus once said. “When you play two, it’s really not an easy win.”

They won their first Grand Slam doubles title in 1999 (Venus was 18, Serena 17), their last in 2016, won four in a row in 2009-10 and never lost even one of their 14 doubles finals in Slams. Just for a little bit of icing, they won three Olympic doubles golds in 2000, 2008 and 2012.

One pivotal question remained, who gave the orders on court? At Wimbledon in 2016, Serena laughed and pointed to Venus: “She’s definitely the boss.”



They were, Gordeeva wrote later, many things, one after the other. Skating partners, friends, husband and wife and then parents. It seemed a story as perfect as their skating.

In 1988 and 1994 they won Olympic pairs skating gold and E.M. Swift of Sports Illustrated would write that “Grinkov is the stem to Gordeeva’s flower”. They won world championships in 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1990 and were described by Dick Button, the Olympic champion, as “the quintessentially perfect pair”.

Then, in 1995, only 28 years old, Grinkov died during a practice session from a heart attack.

Gordeeva wrote a book with Swift, titled My Sergei: A Love Story, and in it she wrote: “I continued to wonder, Why would God give me this man in the first place, then take him away? Did He want to show me how difficult life is? How much the heart can hurt?”



This is the legendary story: Dundee is training the boxer Willie Pastrano when – as Jonathan Eig writes in his book Ali: A Life – they get a call from the lobby in the Sheraton Hotel.

Dundee picks up. A kid says: “Hello, my name is Cassius Marcellus Clay. I am the Golden Gloves champion from Louisville… I’m gonna be the Olympic champion and then I’m going to be the champion of the whole world. I’d like to meet you.”

It is Ali and he is 15.

Dundee and Pastrano have nothing to do and invite him up and it is their first meeting.

This is 1957. By 1981, after years of a partnership, Ali will tell the New York Times about Dundee: “If he tells you something during a fight, you can believe it. As a cornerman, Angelo is the best in the world.”


They were roughly the same height (short), went to the same academy (Barcelona’s La Masia), wore no airs, won so many of the same titles together (World Cup, Euros, Champions Leagues) and were masters of the same unspoken language.

Passing a football.

Alex Ferguson would say, “I don’t think Iniesta and Xavi have ever given the ball away in their lives” and for six consecutive years from 2008 to 2013 the International Federation of Football History & Statistics named one of them the World’s Best Playmaker.

Many words were written on them, but few were exchanged between them. “We never spoke much on the pitch in over 10 years playing together,” said Xavi. “It wasn’t necessary. We understood each other with a look.”



The best partnerships become non-verbal, operating on a higher frequency, as if after so much time a pairing develops telepathy. For May-Treanor, her relationship with Walsh Jennings was instinctive. “Volleyball,” she said, “is really a dance – you see those professional dancers, they know what the next move is without verbalising and that is how Kerri and I were.”

They won three straight Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012) in beach volleyball and at one point, on tour, had won 112 consecutive matches and 19 straight titles before they were beaten.

It was hard to separate them, though at least this much was clear: Walsh Jennings had the better nickname. She was called “Six Feet of Sunshine”. May-Treanor was simply called “Turtle”.



One was the 20-year-old son of a gardener. The other was a 10-year-old boy, playing hooky from school. Together they challenged convention when Ouimet became the first amateur to win golf’s US Open in 1913 with Lowery as his caddie.

Ouimet won in a play-off and would not let Lowery be taken off the bag. When they won, wrote the New York Tribune, “a roar went up which shook the air and rumbled away for miles”.

A book would be written about that Open, a film made and a statue of them created. Later, Ouimet would inscribe a photo for Lowery with these words: “This is the boy who won the 1913 Open.” Many years later, in 1967, when Ouimet died, Lowery was one of his pallbearers.


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