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Krejcikova, Ram take mixed doubles crown

  • Michael Beattie

Barbora Krejcikova and Rajeev Ram have been crowned the Australian Open 2019 mixed doubles champions, ending the Cinderella run of Australian wildcards Astrid Sharma and John-Patrick Smith 7-6(3) 6-1.

The Czech-American No.3 seeds saved a set point in the opener before running away with the contest in the second set, closing out a comfortable victory in one hour, 12 minutes.

“My partner is pretty good – her ranking is No.1 in the world, so it’s quite an honour to play with her, and for her to carry me to the title,” Ram said, to which Krejcikova replied, “Thanks for texting me at the beginning, so we could play.”

Ram continued: “To our opponents today, JP and Astra: I think it took me 65 Grand Slams to reach my first final, and 75 to reach my second, which was today, so for you to do it in your first, that’s quite impressive. She’s going to be a big star in Australian tennis. And JP, we go back along way – great match, and a great week for you.”

At 34 years of age, Ram claimed his first Grand Slam title in his second mixed doubles final, having lost the 2016 US Open decider alongside Coco Vandeweghe. For 23-year-old Krejcikova this is her third, following hot on the heels of her women’s doubles triumphs with Katerina Siniakova at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2018.

Krejcikova’s victory makes her the first Czech player to lift the mixed doubles trophy at Melbourne Park since the late Jana Novotna, who defended her mixed title 30 years ago alongside partner Jim Pugh.

With the match starting shortly after 11pm following Naomi Osaka’s triumph in the women’s singles final, Krejcikova and Ram made the perfect start to the match, breaking in the opening game as Sharma and Smith showed some early nerves.

But the Aussies soon struck their rhythm, showcasing some of the gung-ho net play that saw them stun No.2 seeds Nicole Melichar and Bruno Soares in the semifinals to break back at 3-3.

It might have been even better for the wildcards, had Krejcikova not served her way out of trouble at 5-6. Smith pushed the game to deuce, which in mixed doubles is a single deciding point, but Sharma overcooked her return to send the set into a tiebreak.

From there, Krejcikova and Ram took control, exposing Smith and Sharma’s inexperience with some savvy defensive doubles. Time and again they backed off before picking apart the Aussie duo with passes and lobs to break twice before sealing victory on their second match point.

“Congrats to Rajeev and Barbora,” Sharma said. “It was an honour to be on the court with you guys. Secondly, thank you JP. He’s been amazing the whole tournament, on and off the court, and brought out the best in me.”