The tone for the match was set in the very first game, with Kontinen swiftly down 0-40 on serve. The Aussie-Finnish duo did well to battle their way out of that hole, and the three break points that followed in Peers’ first service game, but Kontinen couldn’t prevent the Frenchmen from breaking for a 5-4 lead, sealed with the sweetest of backhand volleys from Mahut.
While both Kontinen and Peers showed flashes of the form that had carried them to the final, and dispelled memories of their wretched 2018 campaign, the No.5 seeds were consistently sharp, dominating the net and coming out on top in the majority of cat and mouse rallies.
They survived their own test from 0-40 down on Herbert’s serve in the fourth game of the second set, but truly proved their class in the tiebreak, aided by a Kontinen double-fault that left the champions three points from the title.
It was Herbert who sealed it, driving an unreturnable short backhand before turning with a smile to Mahut, crouched in disbelief and celebration.
“I saw him playing when he was playing juniors at Wimbledon,” Mahut said later. “And I knew – I told him once that he would be the new Michael Llodra. That is true.
“I remember we had dinner one night at the Saint Remy-de-Provence Challenger. We talked, and when I had to choose a partner when Llodra retired, I had no doubt that I had to play with Pierre-Hugues, because I was sure we'd have so much success.”