After winning Brisbane’s season opener with Bethanie Mattek-Sands last week, Sania Mirza and her Czech partner Barbora Strycova lost in the final of Apia International tennis tournament at Sydney. The Indo-Czech pair lost to unseeded Timea Babos of Hungary and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia. Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller won the men’s crown by beating Great Britain’s Dan Evans and recorded his maiden victory on ATP circuit. While it was the first ATP title for Muller, Britain’s Johanna Konta secured her second WTA crown at Sydney by defeating Poland’s second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska. Men’s doubles final at Sydney also produced unexpected champions with the Dutchmen Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middlekoop upsetting tournament top-seeds Britain’s Jamie Murray and Brazil’s Bruno Soares.
Playing in just their second tournament together, Timea Babos and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova combined excellently to upset top seeds Sania Mirza of India and Barbora Strycova of Czech Republic in Friday’s women’s doubles final of 2017 Apia International at Sydney. The Hungarian-Russian duo played a finely coordinated match and won their first WTA doubles title as a team with a 6-4, 6-4 victory, completed in 72 minutes. Sania/Strycova began well and had a break opportunity in fourth game. But Babos/Pavlyuchenkova fought hard and denied their opponents. Not only that, the Hungarian/Russian women forced a break point in fifth game and converted that advantage. After taking the first set at 6-4, Babos/Pavlyuchenkova raced to a 3-0 lead, when Strycova made too many unforced errors. They kept that advantage even as Pavlyuchenkova got ready to serve at 5-4 in the tenth game. Sania/Strycova saved two match points but couldn’t stop the momentum of their charged-up opponents. Babos/Pavlyuchenkova looked the happy twosome as they held aloft the trophy in just their second match as a team. The loss denied Sania her third consecutive Sydney title. She had won with Bethanie Mattek-Sands in 2015 and Martina Hingis last year.
In Saturday’s men’s singles final, Luxembourg’s no.6 seed Gilles Muller won his first-ever ATP Tour-level title by defeating Britain’s Dan Evans 7-6, 6-2. Muller had reached six ATP finals earlier in his career but always lost in the finals. This time, however, the left-handed Luxembourgian reversed the trend with a near perfect play. The first set went on serves, although both players came close to obtaining break-chances. Muller was in trouble in fifth game with Evans taking the first two points on his serve but the Luxembourgian produced two brilliant passing shots to level at 30-30 and finally held his service. In the tiebreak, Evans led 4-2 but Muller brought the scores level at 4-4 and closed the set soon. In the second set, Muller broke Evans in the third game and carried the momentum forward to obtain another break to lead at 5-2. Though Muller couldn’t convert his first two match points, it was all over on his third match point. The 7-6, 6-2 win dropped the first ever ATP trophy in Muller’s bag.
While Dan Evans couldn’t win at Sydney, his compatriot Johanna Konta played brilliantly against Poland’s world no.3 Agnieszka Radwanska and finished by winning her second WTA title. Konta was a personification of power and athleticism against the Pole, who couldn’t rise to her lofty status against the determined Brit. Though Radwanska started off confidently and held her first service game in opening set, Konta showed her intentions immediately. She held her serve in second game, broke Radwanska in the third and held her serve again. After taking the first set at 6-4, Konta made the second-set contest look one-sided as she ran away to a 5-1 lead. Rest was easy as the Pole could only take one more game and Konta went through with a 6-4, 6-2 win in 82 minutes.
The men’s doubles final concluded the story of upsets at Sydney, where no fancied player could win the finals. After women’s doubles top seeds Sania Mirza/Strycova and Agnieszka Radwanska, it was the turn of men’s doubles top seeds Jamie Murray of Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil. The duo from Netherlands called Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop produced authoritative display in beating Murray/Soares 6-3, 7-5 in men’s doubles final at Sydney. Earlier in the tournament Koolhof/Middelkoop had also upset the famous team of Jean Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau on their way to the final. In the final, Koolhof/Middelkoop began dominantly and won the first set 6-3. The Dutchmen looked like carrying the momentum forward in the second set but Murray/Soares recovered and even held two set points in 10th game. But once Soares committed an avoidable error, Koolhof/Middelkoop broke their opponents in 11th game and held their service in 12th to finish as winners. The Dutchmen were elated at the biggest victory of their careers and they will go to Melbourne with confidence.
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