Sveta & Vera Capture Aussie Open Doubles
Published January 27, 2012 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva became the first all-Russian team to win a Grand Slam doubles title on Friday evening, surviving a tense final game to defeat the all-Italian pairing of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the final of the Australian Open, 57 64 63.
Although Kuznetsova and Zvonareva are better known for their singles play, they had both won Grand Slams in doubles before, Kuznetsova right here in 2005 (with Alicia Molik) and Zvonareva at the US Open in 2006 (with Nathalie Dechy). Zvonareva also had two Grand Slam titles in mixed doubles.
Unseeded, they took out two seeded teams en route to the final, No.4 seeds and defending champions Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta as well as No.6 seeds Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina, then capped it off with the win over No.11 seeds Errani and Vinci, winning nine of the last 13 games. The last game was six deuces - Kuznetsova and Zvonareva won on their third match point.
"In the middle of the second set we found the right game, what was good for us," Kuznetsova said after the match. "We knew we weren't at our best at the start but the match was so equal, so we knew we needed just a few percent to improve our game. We were talking and figured out the right key."
"We started going for our shots a little bit more, taking more risks sometimes even though we had some more unforced errors," Zvonareva said. "It worked better for us in the second and third sets than it did in the first set."
The championship title wasn't such a bad result for such a last-minute team.
"I think we decided to play the night before sign-in closed," Zvonareva said.
"Yes, Sunday night or Monday," Kuznetsova added. "Our focus was on singles. Sometimes I go to a Grand Slam and I don't know if I'm going to play doubles or not. It's not our main goal, but we thought about it and said, 'Okay, let's play.'"
Could they be one of the contenders for gold in London this summer? "When we signed in to play doubles here, we weren't thinking about it," Zvonareva said of the Olympics. "I think the most important thing is I enjoy playing with Sveta. Like Sveta said, it's not our main goal, so it makes it easier because we play doubles to enjoy it, maybe to practice a few things, and that's nice.
"I think both of us will try to make it to the Olympics in singles. That's the most important thing right now. If we get chosen for doubles, we get chosen. It's a very tough competition in our country and we just have to play it by ear."
Kuznetsova, 26, and Zvonareva, 27, have known each other for a long, long time.
"We were still competing in Russia in Under 14s and 16s, then Under 18s," Zvonareva said. "We were on the same team in Sunshine Cup when we won."
"Vera and I have known each other since we were very young," Kuznetsova said. "We even played the final of the Orange Bowl against each other."
"It's lots of memories," Zvonareva said.
"Yeah, it's like forever," Kuznetsova replied.