A daily look at all that is doubles on the ATP and WTA tours. Friday’s big buzz sees Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis win their third straight Grand Slam title. Top seeds Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis won their 36th straight match as they edged 7th seeds Lucia Hradecks and Andrea Hlavackova 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the Australian Open women’s doubles final.
Mirza-Hingis Have Not Lost Since Cincinnati
Things were no where near perfect for top seeds Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis during Friday’s women’s doubles final in Melbourne. Their serves were broken six times in the match, including four times in the opening set during an incredible run of eight straight breaks of serve between the two teams. Their ground strokes were a shade off at times with 17 unforced errors, their second highest total of the tournament. Martina Hingis’ right shoulder was out of sorts as she required multiple treatments during the match, perhaps explaining why she had such a difficulty holding serve in the championship match. At the end of the day though, the master problem solvers once again found the right pieces to the puzzle to pull off a win that sealed their third Grand Slam title together.
It was a long meandering first set between Hingis-Mirza and Hradecka-Hlavackova. After both teams opened with service holds, there would be eight straight service breaks to 5-5. That left the top seeds finally holding to push to a 6-5 lead. The Czechs would answer with their first service hold since game two to send the opener to a tiebreak. That is where Mirza and Hingis revved their service games up and coasted to a 7-1 win. They would take all four of the 7th seeds’ service points in the breaker.
The second set started predictably as Hingis and Mirza moved immediately to pressure the Czechs who may have still been wobbly from the tiebreak. The top seeds would break and the consolidate for a 2-0 lead. The set and match looked about done with another break to send Hingis-Mirza ahead 4-1. At that point though, nerves and perhaps Hingis’ pesky shoulder got in the way as they would drop serve and give the Czechs a small window of opportunity. Hradecka-Hlavackova could not take advantage though as they dropped serve twice more, including the clinching game to seal the title at 6-3.
Hingis said even though they have met unprecedented success during their current 36 match win streak, they will continue to work hard, “We’re really focused, that’s our strength, that we can practice together and we make each other better, even from the start when we played our first tournament in Indian Wells and Miami,” Hingis said. “There’s not that many people who can match her (Mirza) in the forehand rallies and me on the backhand side and at the net. That’s what we try to do every match.”
The next challenge for this dynamic duo will be pursuit of the “Santina” Slam. They have won three straight Grand Slams together, so if they can win at Roland Garros later in the year, they would accomplish the calendar year slam. It is a goal that no one will be betting against on a team that has not lost since last summer’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Mixed Doubles Final Set
The mixed doubles semifinals both took place on Friday. American Coco Vandeweghe is headed to her first Grand Slam final along with Romanian partner Horia Tecau. The pair shut down Andreja Klepac and Treat Huey 6-4, 6-4. Vandeweghe was arguably the most impressive player of the four as she displayed her trademark aggressiveness and power on serve and with her ground strokes to help fuel the win. Vandeweghe-Tecau won 40 of 56 points on serve and were able to fight off all five break points they faced. They were assertive when they saw break chances off Klepac and Huey. They would break them twice on four chances. Vandeweghe and Tecau combined to rack up 36 winners to just six unforced errors. Tecau will be seeking his second Australian Open mixed doubles title. He won in 2012 with another American, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, as his partner.
The other half of the final will feature 5th seeds Elena Vesnina and Bruno Soares. They beat top seeds Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig 7-5, 7-6 (4). It was a bright start for Mirza-Dodig as they broke their counterparts right off the bat and backed that up with a hold to lead 2-0. They would continue on serve the next five games before Vesnina-Soares would strike back with a break to even the set at 4-4. The 5th seeds would crack the top seeded duo again in the 12th game of the set to grab a 7-5 set win. The second set went to plan with service holds by both teams through four games. By the 5th, Mirza and Dodig again had a lead. They would extend that again until the 8th game when Vesnina and Soares fought back with a break to draw even again at 4-4. A shaky 11th game handed Mirza-Dodig an opportunity to serve for the set as they led 6-5, but they could not close the deal. A break back sent the set to a tiebreak. Vesnina-Soares would take five of the last seven points to secure a spot in the final.
The Russian will be looking to lock up her first mixed doubles title after missing out on three different occassions. That includes making the 2012 Australian Open mixed doubles final where Vesnina and Leander Paes lost to Tecau and Mattek-Sands. Soares will be trying to win his third mixed doubles slam title. He won the U.S. Open twice with Ekaterina Makarova as his partner in 2012 and Sania Mirza in 2014.
Men’s Doubles Final
The men’s final will feature 7th seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares against the unseeded team of Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek. For Murray, it is a chance to get the monkey off his back and win a doubles slam title. Twice in 2015, Murray and former partner John Peers were denied a title in a slam final. They lost at Wimbledon to Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in straight sets and then fell to Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert in straight sets at the U.S. Open. Soares will contend for his first men’s doubles title as well, losing his only previous chance at the 2012 U.S. Open alongside Alexander Peya.
On the other side of the net, Murray-Soares will see a wealth of experience and slam titles in Nestor and Stepanek. Nestor has eight men’s doubles titles at Grand Slams, but none since the 2012 French Open. His only win in Melbourne came back in 2002 with Mark Knowles. Stepanek has twice found slam glory in the men’s doubles ranks. In 2012, he won in Australia with Leander Paes over the Bryan Brothers. He would win his second slam title with Paes in 2013 at the U.S. Open when they denied the man he will see in this year’s final, Bruno Soares and Alexander Peya.
This is a difficult match to call. Both teams have been playing some brilliant tennis during their runs. Murray-Soares have built an instant chemistry as new partners in 2016, while Nestor and Stepanek have done the same this week after having only played together on one other occassion. Both teams have been difficult to break on serve in this tournament with both playing mostly clean tennis this week.
Motivation should not be a factor at this stage, but this could literally be Nestor’s last, best chance to win a big title. It has taken him nearly four years to get back to a slam final and he’s unlikely to play in the Rio Olympics this year after being passed over with Vasek Pospisil set to team with Milos Raonic’s as Canada’s top team. So if not now, then when for Nestor? This could be a three set thriller and the winner is too close to call. The men’s doubles final is the last match scheduled at Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night.