MELBOURNE, Australia - Friday's Australian Open doubles final will be contested between a team many expected to be there, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, and a duo few could have predicted to get this far, crowd favorites Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua.
Barty and Dellacqua converted on all five of their break point chances in their 62 64 semifinal defeat of Varvara Lepchenko and Zheng Saisai on Wednesday. Before taking the field by storm this fortnight, the Australians had only paired up once in a WTA event - reaching the semifinals of Brisbane last year. While the 16-year-old Barty is playing in just her fourth WTA doubles event and first final, this is not the 27-year-old Dellacqua's first taste of success at a Grand Slam - having been runner-up alongside Francesca Schiavone at the 2008 French Open.
Despite the odds being stacked against them, Barty and Dellacqua have not dropped a set in Melbourne, including in a signature second round upset of No.3 seeds Maria Kirilenko and Lisa Raymond. Not only are they the first wildcards to make the finals of a major since Chuang Chia-Jung and Chan Yung-Jan were runners-up at the 2007 Australian Open, they are the first pair of Australians into the Australian Open final since Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Helen Gourlay in 1977.
Barty and Dellacqua will certainly have their hands full in the final, as Errani and Vinci are the top-ranked team in the world. The Italians also were 62 64 semifinal winners over fourth-seeded Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina a round after outlasting 13-time Grand Slam champions Serena and Venus Williams. It was their fourth win in four meetings with the Russians, improving their record in Grand Slam semifinals to 4-0. Also, they are now 24-2 in Grand Slam matches dating back to the 2012 Australian Open.
The 2012 French Open and US Open champions are seeking their third major and 14th WTA title as a duo. Runners-up here last year, Errani and Vinci are also looking to become the first pair of Italians to capture the Australian Open, though Flavia Pennetta was triumphant in 2011 alongside Argentina's Gisela Dulko.