Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka have captured their second Grand Slam trophy together, denying Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova to secure the Australian Open women’s doubles final on Friday.
Second seeds Mertens and Sabalenka bolstered their hard-court credentials as they prevailed 6-2 6-3 for their fifth title as a team.
Between them, both pairs had triumphed at the other three majors, but the women’s doubles silverware at Melbourne Park had proved elusive.
The Belgian-Belarusian duo was stronger throughout the 79-minute affair – sharper on returns, smarter with placement and more measured in aggression – on Rod Laver Arena.
“I know she can do it with her serve, it's like I'll just stand at the net,” Mertens said. “We had a really good couple of weeks. We had a tough draw actually in doubles, so we really happy that we pulled through. Some days, like today, we just kept on fighting.”
“It's been a tough couple of weeks and I just want to thank everyone who was involved. The last couple of weeks were really great,” Mertens said.
“Thanks to my partner and also the other girls. We didn't have fans for a couple of days, but I’m really glad they're back.
“Thanks from everyone back home supporting. I really felt it with the messages and everything.”
Only the fifth team in history to win the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami in 2019, Mertens and Sabalenka added the US Open title to their hard-court haul that year.
They triumphed in Ostrava to end 2020 before adding their second hard-court major at Melbourne Park.
This was the ultimate reward for a Grand Slam preparation like never before.
“I would say a little bit [of a] weird match,” Sabalenka said. “I think in the semis we played much better. Today wasn't the level which I expect, but we tried really hard no matter what. We’re just happy that we got it.”
Siniakova looked nervous early on and was struggling to find her range.
Mertens ended a run of three-straight breaks in a nine minute plus game to hold for 5-2 and a sixth double fault from Siniakova handed the No.2 seeds the first set after 35 minutes.
It took Krejcikova – also through to the mixed doubles final with Rajeev Ram – to snap a five-game streak against the Czechs when she held for 1-all in the second set.
The third seeds, who claimed back-to-back majors at the French Open and Wimbledon in 2018, stayed with the Belgian-Belarusian pair before Sabalenka won a 30-shot rally to again pile the pressure on Siniakova’s serve again at 4-3.
She secured the crucial break for the chance to serve for the championship with a thumping forehand return.
After more than eight minutes battling to finish the job, a smiling Sablanenka secured it when Siniakova fired wide.
Despite their victory, the Belarusian later announced their successful partnership would be put on hold as she elected to focus her energy on Grand Slam singles through 2021.
“Together we're not going to play Grand Slams, maybe a little bit of Premier tournaments,” Sabalenka said.
“For this year, I want to put more focus on singles, so a little bit less doubles, see what happens.
“I just want to manage my energy. Still when you go out for doubles, you're still there for competing, to put everything you have … I just want to try something different this year.”