MADRID, Spain -- No.3 seeds and reigning Australian Open champions Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France fought their way through a closely contested semifinal against 2nd-seeded Czechs Andrea Sestini Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova, 6-2, 3-6, 10-8, to advance to the doubles final at the Mutua Madrid Open.
Also advancing to the final were top-seeded Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, who needed two tiebreak sets to get by No.7 seeds Andreja Klepac of Slovenia and María José Martínez Sánchez of Spain, ultimately prevailing 7-6(4), 7-6(4).
The Madrid final will be a rematch of the Australian Open final from earlier this year, where Babos and Mladenovic upset the Russian duo. Makarova and Vesnina exacted revenge later in the year with a semifinal win at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Babos and Mladenovic had an exceptional start to the match, breaking Strycova to lead 2-0 following a powerful overhead winner by Babos. Later, a Mladenovic backhand winner on break point gave the Hungarian/French duo a double-break advantage at 5-1.
Although the Frenchwoman dropped serve in the next game, the No.3 seeds closed out the set by breaking Sestini Hlavackova, closing out the opener after a Babos backhand volley forced an error.
The Czechs rebounded in the second set, as Strycova picked off a volley for a winner to break Babos in the opening game. The second seeds also broke Babos in the final game of the set, sending the encounter into a match tiebreak after the Hungarian sent a backhand long while down set point.
Babos and Mladenovic raced to a seemingly insurmountable lead in the match tiebreak, claiming both of Strycova’s service points to lead 4-1, then forcing the Czechs into poor returns off of Mladenovic’s serves to lead 6-1.
However, the Czechs pulled level in the tiebreak after Babos hit forehand errors long on both of her next service points, and it was 6-6 at the next change of ends. But on the next point, Mladenovic hit a crosscourt forehand winner for the final mini-break of the day, and she and Babos held firm from there, closing out the match with a winning forehand volley by the Frenchwoman.
Meanwhile, reigning Wimbledon champions Makarova and Vesnina had another seesaw battle to follow up their marathon quarterfinal win, which had featured no breaks of service by either team. Despite excellent serving statistics by both teams, the semifinal featured two breaks apiece, as the top seeds squeaked out a win.
The No.1-seeded Russians reeled off the last three points of the first-set tiebreak, then pulled off the same feat in the second set to avoid a match tiebreak against Klepac and Martínez Sánchez. Makarova and Vesnina won 67 percent of points on their second serve in the match, while Klepac and Martínez Sánchez won only half of their second service points.