This match featured two of the top doubles teams in the world. Both teams are top five seeds with Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic seeded fifth and Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina seeded second. Three of the four players competing played in the 2017 WTA Finals last year, with Babos winning with Andrea Hlavackova and Vesnina appearing with Makarova. All three of those players are in the top ten in the world in doubles, while Mladenovic remains at a respectable 26th. Although each player excels in doubles, none are specialists. Babos has the worst singles ranking of the four, coming in at #51. These are four talented all-around tennis players, and the match lived up to its potential.
Makarova and Vesnina jumped out to an early lead in the match, securing the first break again Babos’ serve in the fifth game of the match. The lead did not last long as Babos and Mladenovic quickly broke back. Babos and Mladenovic secured a second consecutive break in the final game of the first set to secure it 6-4. Babos and Mladenovic played the more aggressive and strong set. They had 13 winners to 6 for Makarova and Vesnina and did not double fault once as opposed to twice for their opponents.
The two pairs began a competitive set by trading breaks in two hard fought games. They traded breaks a second time in this set, then Mladenovic and Babos secured what was to be the deciding break. Makarova and Vesnina seemed to be fighting back as Mladenovic served for the match. They jumped out to a 15-40 lead and had another break point in deuce. However, ad scoring is used in majors unlike regular WTA events, and after several points back and forth, the final shot sailed wide. This set was more sloppy than the first, with only 16 total winners and five double faults, four from the champions. This stellar doubles final concluded 6-4 6-3 Mladenovic and Babos for the Australian Open title.
This is the fourth doubles title by the two of them as a team, and the first Grand Slam title. It is the first-ever Grand Slam title for Babos, and Mladenovic’s second in women’s doubles, to add on to her two Slam titles in mixed doubles. It is the pair’s first title together since 2015, as both have been playing with other partners. The success down under will likely lead to a more consistent and successful pairing throughout the season.
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