Herbert and Mahut complete career Grand Slam

  • Michael Beattie

Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut became the first men’s doubles duo to complete the career Grand Slam in almost 13 years, completing their collection where their journey started with a 6-4 7-6(1) victory over No.12 seeds Henri Kontinen and Australian John Peers.

The Frenchmen, who played their first major together at Melbourne Park four years ago, always had the edge in a hotly contested final, with Australian Peers in particular producing some fine plays to prevent the No.5 seeds from running away with the match.

Herbert and Mahut: AO champions for the first time

Ultimately, however, Herbert and Mahut proved too sharp when it mattered, racing away with the second-set tiebreak to become just the eighth pair to win all four majors together, and the first since the Bryan brothers completed their set at Wimbledon in 2006.

MORE: Infosys MatchBeats: See how the match unfolded

“What to say, Nico?” Herbert said during the finals ceremony, where they were handed the trophy by two-time singles calendar Grand Slam winner Rod Laver. “We started off here in 2015 – our first tournament together, and we went all the way to the final. We missed the title by one match, but we did not know at that time if we would be in a final again. And now we’ve won all the Grand Slams together.

“I don’t know what to say. Thank you for sharing the court with me. I’ve had so much fun with you.”

Mahut in turn paid tribute to his partner, insisting he was hopeful of more titles together in the future, before paying tribute to Laver and 14-time Grand Slam champion Roy Emerson, who watched the final on Rod Laver Arena.

“This is the last Grand Slam trophy we have,” said the 37-year-old, 10 years Herbert’s senior. “We have so much fun on court, but I have to say I love you like my brother, and I hope we’re going to play a few more years together.

“I feel rally honoured, and I have to say a little bit shaky, to play in front on such legends. It’s amazing to have such players, so many legends as you have in Australia, so thank you for coming and watching us play.”

Their quest for the quartet of titles began at the Australian Open in 2015, when they paired up at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time and surged to the final. It remains their only defeat in a title match.

The French duo beat Peers and Jamie Murray in the US Open final that same year, won Wimbledon a year later, and clinched an emotional victory at Roland Garros in 2018 a year after helping France lift the Davis Cup – a career-defining doubles title in each of the past five seasons. 

With a second shot at Olympic gold in 2020, Mahut admitted thoughts of rounding out his career with victory in Tokyo had crossed his mind.

“We have so many things to achieve,” said the former doubles world No.1. “If you remember well, in 2016 in Rio, we didn't play that good, so I still have this in mind so I won't think about retirement until after the next Olympics. 

“So you can wait at least one more year, and then of course at the end of my career, at least, I could say that we won all four slams. But I don't want to quit.”

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.”