American Desirae Krawczyk and Australian Andrew Harris are a long-time pairing, off the court.
Four-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champion Krawczyk has spent a handful of Christmas breaks with her partner and his family Down Under, and she was among the millions in Melbourne who suffered through strict pandemic lockdowns.
The couple were at Indian Wells in 2020, but after the tournament was cancelled that March, Harris flew home. Krawczyk soon followed.
"His parents actually were like, 'If you want to come to Australia, you better come as soon as possible because they might lock it down," the Californian told ausopen.com.
"Funnily enough, I was living in Arizona at the time – I drove from Arizona to LA and ended up getting on a flight. It was the last flight out to Australia before they shut the borders."
"I was here 'til the beginning of August – I was here for all the lockdown. It was brutal, I was experiencing Melbourne winter for the first time and it was not fun, but we obviously got to spend time together," said Krawczyk.
Also not fun was their first on-court battle on Monday. Krawczyk and Neal Skupski, the third seeds, defeated Australian wildcards Alana Parnaby and Harris 6-2 6-4 to reach the mixed doubles quarterfinals.
"It was the first time we've played, hopefully the last," grinned Krawczyk. "It was tough – we knew the night before that we were playing each other because we're obviously staying together, we had a little banter back and forth, there was a little bit of tension."
"It was kind of weird playing him, cause he obviously knows me, he's watched so many of my matches, I've watched him. I don't know if I enjoyed it as much as I thought I was going to – it was pretty stressful, kind of awkward," she added.
Krawczyk and Skupski, who have lifted two mixed doubles trophies together at Wimbledon, next face another fellow Anglo-American team, Jamie Murray and Taylor Townsend.
"I would love to win here, this is the one I haven't won yet, but I'm just taking it one match at a time," said Krawczyk. "Every match is tough; a lot of these mixed matches are going to ten-point breakers."
The American world No.16 is also a contender in the women's doubles draw, she's seeded sixth alongside Demi Schuurs.
"I definitely would love to win a women's Slam, I've made a final, semis here and there," Krawczyk said. "To make one last push would be great [but] just happy with the hard work I'm putting in day by day, hopefully it'll get there."
In other mixed doubles results, India's Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna survived a tough 6-4 7-6(9) battle against Makoto Ninomiya and Ariel Behar. 36-year-old Mirza, a six-time Grand Slam doubles champion (three women's and three mixed) has said she'll retire later this season, making this her last Grand Slam campaign.
Also victorious were Jelena Ostapenko and David Vega Hernandez, who ousted top seeds Giuliana Olmos and Marcelo Arevalo 6-7(4) 7-6(6) [10-8]. The Latvian's doubles duty likely eliminated what would have been a practice session on Monday ahead of her first AO women's singles quarterfinal on Tuesday.
Elsewhere in men's doubles action, Australian wildcards and first-time pairing Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler saved match point en route to a 1-6 7-6(8) 6-4 victory over Bosnia's Tomislav Brkic and Ecuador’s Gonzalo Escobar.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Kubler. "Hopefully we keep it going.”
With the win, the home crowd favourites set up a quarterfinal clash against top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Skupski, who took out Nikola Cacic and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi in straight sets.
Another Australian wildcard team, Alex Bolt and Luke Saville, fell to 14th seeds John Peers and Andreas Mies. Peers said that as relatively new partners they "came out on fire" to tough out their 6-0 6-3 win.
In women's doubles, defending champions and top seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova dropped just three games in their victory over Oksana Kalashnikova and Alycia Parks.
Second-seeded Americans Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula also advanced to the quarterfinals, blasting past 16th seeds Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi in straight sets.