in AO for fourth Slam title
Ashley Marshall | January 27, 2017
The newly minted world No. 1s may have crashed out early in the singles draws in Melbourne, but there was no such hangover for the best women's doubles player in the game.
American Bethanie Mattek-Sands (pictured above, right) captured her fourth women’s doubles Grand Slam title on Friday, partnering with Lucie Safarova to rally past No. 12 seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Shuai Peng in the final, 6-7, 6-3, 6-3.
The victory is Mattek-Sands’ second women’s doubles title at the Australian Open, following a triumph Down Under in 2015 when she partnered with Safarova for the first time. She also won the US Open in 2016 and the French Open in 2015, each with Safarova.
“We were celebrating like 5-year-old kids out there,” said Mattek-Sands, who also has mixed doubles titles in Melbourne (2012) and Paris (2015) on her resume. ADVERTISEMENT “I mean, it still feels amazing to win it. It's a Grand Slam. When we got the trophy, we saw our names written on it. We know we get it written on there again. It's just special.”
After dropping the first-set tiebreak, Mattek-Sands and Safarova broke four times in the second, claiming three of the final four games to send the final into a decider.
Opportunities were few and far between in the third set, with Mattek-Sands and Safarova breaking in the fourth game and then erasing three break-back opportunities in the very next game.
That was as close as their opponents came to getting back into the championship match. The American-Czech combo sealed the deal on their first championship point when Mattek-Sands intercepted Hlavackova’s backhand return and placed a volley out of the Czech’s reach.
It was a perfect way for Mattek-Sands to celebrate her first tournament as the best player in the world – something two other players in a similar position failed to replicate. While the top seeds in the singles draws – Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber, each of whom was competing at a major as the No. 1 in world for the first time – went out in the first week, it was Mattek-Sands who went the distance.
The American attributed the success to the familiarity of partnering with Safarova and the different strengths each bring to the court. Asked about her game plan to come into the net and have Safarova often stick to the baseline, Mattek-Sands found a new name for the duo affectionately referred to as Bucie, a combination of Bethanie and Lucie.
“I'm Spiderman at the net and she's the Czech wall,” she said. “But also we use tactics where we mix it up. … I think that's a big part of our success, is we mix it up. We can both be at net. We can both be at the back. I think it makes it tough.”
Whether the new moniker will stick is a question for another time. What’s not up for discussion is that Mattek-Sands and Safarova are the hottest doubles team in the world right now. Once again at the Happy Slam, they’re alone on the top of the mountain.
Mattek-Sands wasn't the only U.S. doubles champion on Day 12. American Carson Branstine and Canada's Bianca Vanessa Andreescu won the junior girls' doubles title with a straight-sets victory over Polish duo Maja Chwalinska and Iga Swiatek.
The 16-year-olds needed just 66 minutes to capture the championship with a 6-1, 7-6 victory.
Branstine, who reached the quarterfinals of the junior girls' singles competition at last year's US Open before a loss to eventual champion Kayla Day, and Andreescu were the No. 3 seeds in the tournament.
Elsewhere on Friday, American Abigal Spears and her partner, Juan Sebastian Cabal, advanced to the final of the mixed doubles competition with a 7-6, 6-2 win over Elina Svitolina and Chris Guccione. They will play No. 2 seeds Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig in the championship match.