Doubles wrap: Mertens, Sabalenka sneak through

  • Ravi Ubha

Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka reached their first Australian Open women's doubles final after claiming a battle against Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs. 

The second seeds advanced 7-5 6-4 to set up a clash with Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, saving 11 of 13 break points faced including all nine from the middle of the first set to the end of it. 

Mertens and Sabalenka — who both harboured hopes of deeper forays in the singles draw but exited in the fourth round — managed to overturn a quick 2-0 deficit for 2-2. 

The drama kicked up a notch a few games later. 

Mertens and Sabalenka saved a set point at 4-5 on serve against the fourth seeds, then broke on their third opportunity to grab a 6-5 advantage. 

Closing out the set wasn’t routine, though. The Belgian and Belarusian thwarted five more break points on Mertens’ serve — the last coming when she hit a forehand winner — before earning a first set point. They duly converted when Schuurs netted a return.

The key break of the second came at 2-2, with Mertens and Sabalenka ultimately progressing in one hour 36 minutes. 

The pair won’t be playing any more doubles at the majors this season, according to Sabalenka, so they will be looking to go out with a bang against third-seeds Krejcikova and Siniakova. 

The Czechs ended the dream fortnight of unseeded duo Darija Jurak and Nina Stojanovic but had to rally to do so, wining 3-6 6-2 6-4 in one hour 55 minutes. 

“It was really tough match today and I think we played great, so I'm really happy that we are through final,” said Siniakova.

Jurak and Stojanovic stunned top-seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Barbora Strycova in the second round, with all four of their victories going the distance. 

When they led 2-1 by a break in the third set, history seemed about to repeat itself. 

But the Czechs — who have claimed two Grand Slam doubles titles together — immediately broke back and saved another break point at 3-3, then broke to end the semifinal in an extended 16-shot rally. 

Sabalenka and Mertens topped Krejcikova and Siniakova in the Indian Wells final in 2019 for their first title together, though fell to the duo at Melbourne Park two months earlier. 

Champions to meet

Defending men’s doubles winners Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury will battle 2016 titlists Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in the semifinals after both teams won in straight sets. 

Ram and Salisbury beat Kiwi Marcus Daniell and Austrian Philipp Oswald 7-6(6) 6-2, not facing a break point while breaking twice in the second set. Daniell and Oswald hit eight double faults. Ram ended the affair by ripping a backhand return winner. 

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury

Murray and Soares, seeded one spot lower at sixth and champions at the Great Ocean Road Open in the build-up, eased past Marcelo Arevalo and Matwe Middelkoop 6-3 6-4. 

Ram and Krejcikova triumphed in mixed doubles in 2019, and the pair moved into the semifinals by defeating 2018 winners Gabriela Dabrowski and Mate Pavic 7-6(3) 6-3. Krejcikova seeks a hat-trick of titles, winning last year with Nikola Mektic. 

Storm Sanders and Marc Polmans await after the duo edged another Australian wildcard pairing, Max Purcell and Arina Rodionova, 4-6 7-5 (10-8).