Mattek-Sands & SafarovaIn a close encounter, the new pair of USA’s Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova has claimed Australian Open women’s doubles championship crown. Until Melbourne, the women never played together as a team and therefore the victory for them was a vindication of their decision in forming a new partnership. It wasn’t an easy final for the American/Czech duo as their 14th seeded opponents Yung-Jan Chan from Chinese Taipei and Jie Zheng of China put up a stiff resistance. However, at the Rod Laver Arena on Friday, Mattek-Sands/Safarova fought hard and registered a 6-4, 7-6 title victory. Chan and Zheng made life difficult for the American/Czech pair but the eventual champions made full use of the opportunities that came their way. With this, the title presentations began and that will continue until late on Sunday. In other notable matches played on Friday morning, Swiss-Miss Martina Hingis and India’s Leander Paes entered the mixed doubles final by beating Su-Wei Hsieh of Chinese Taipei and Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 7-5, 6-4. However, there was disappointment for top seeds Sania Mirza of India and Brazilian Bruno Soares, who lost in the other equally intensely-contested semifinal match against Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic and Canadian Daniel Nestor 3-6, 6-2, [10-8].


The American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Czech Lucie Safarova kept smiling all evening after they won the women’s doubles crown. More than anything else, the fact that they were playing as a team together counted high in their minds. The feeling of instant reward won’t go away so easily. Moreover, they were unseeded and no one expected them to win. Their solace rested in the fact that most of the seeded pairs have already gone out of the competition. Regardless, playing against the14th seed pair of Yung-Jan Chan of Taiwan and Jie Zheng of China was not so easy. The Asian women were also aware that they were taking on a new pair and therefore more relaxed than their opponents from America/Europe. The unseeded duos were a break down early in the first set but recovered to take the set 6-4. The same thing happened in the second set as well. But Mattek-Sands/Safarova saved that too. They saved their best performance for crunch points and that helped them immensely. In between, the American required treatment on her leg but after that, they pushed their opponents to the second set tiebreaker. The match looked like going to the third set Mattek-Sands/Safarova  managed to take it out in straight sets. It is the second Australian Open title for Mattek-Sands after she won the mixed doubles title in 2012 with Romanian Horia Tecau. For Safarova, however, it is the maiden Grand Slam title. The pair practiced together for the first time in Melbourne ahead of their respective singles matches and they were not sure which side they were going to play on. With all such arrangements, it is really creditable that they emerged as the women’s doubles champions.


In another big match on Friday, Doubles legend Leander Paes and Melbourne Park favorite Martina Hingis combined to make it to the mixed doubles final, where they’ll face no.3 seeds Kristina Mladenovic of France and Daniel Nestor of Canada. Hingis and Paes faced Su-Wei Hsieh of Chinese Taipei and Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay. As the match began Paes/Hingis trailed 0-3 in the first set and it worsened to 1-4. At this point the Indo-Swiss pair stepped up their play and reeled off game after game to take the first set 7-5. The pace in the second set was brisk and Paes/Hingis won that easily to finish with the match score of 7-5, 6-4. More than anything else, the match will be remembered for an incredible behind-the-back volley by Paes that may go down as the shot in a doubles match of the tournament. Paes’ shot came in the eighth game of the first set, when they were in a 21-shot rally. Hsieh hit a ball to the left of Paes, who was standing near the net, and it seemed destined to be a winner. But the right-handed Paes flicked his racket behind his back and somehow kept a volley in play during a point that he won with his subsequent shot to level the opening set at 4-4.


There was, however, a setback for the top seeded pair of India’s Sania Mirza and Brazil’s Bruno Soares. The winners of the US open lost to no.3 seeds Kristina Mladenovic of France and Daniel Nestor of Canada 6-3, 2-6, (10-8). It was a close game in the end but Mladenovic/Nestor prevailed in the match tie-break.