INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA -- The star-studded doubles event at the BNP Paribas Open continued on Thursday as the 2nd-seeded Chan sisters, Latisha and Hao-ching, defeated the Latvian duo of Jelena Ostapenko and Anastasija Sevastova, 6-2, 6-3. The team from Chinese Taipei led a number of highly-seeded doubles pairings into the second round.
“Today is our first match [together] after a long time, but I think it was a great match,” Latisha said after the match. “It was pretty aggressive and strong, and then we were strong when we had to [be]. There were quite a few deuces, and I’m glad that we made it at the end.”
Latisha, co-ranked World No.1 in doubles with her former (now retired) partner Martina Hingis, linked up with her sister for the first time this year, after playing with Andrea Sestini Hlavackova up to this point in 2018.
But the most recent time the Chan sisters played together, they won the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open title, late last year. “For now, the US swing, we’re going to play together, and we’ll see how it goes,” Latisha explained.
“With Andi [Sestini Hlavackova] I’m returning on the ad court, and now I’m on the deuce court, that’s a change again. So I’ll have to see how I adjust to it,” Latisha continued, also stating that she prefers to play on the deuce side, which she covered while partnering Hingis to a staggering nine titles last year.
The match versus the Latvians, both of whom are ranked in the Top 20 in singles, was unorthodox, as the typical doubles patterns and net play exhibited by the Chan sisters was met by the mercurial shot selection of Sevastova and the brute power of reigning Roland Garros champion Ostapenko.
But despite a number of close games -- half of the games in the second set went to deciding point -- the Chan sisters tended to come out on top in clutch situations, breaking the Latvians five times during the match. “We’re always playing doubles, so I think we know more for the doubles game,” Hao-ching mused afterwards.
The opening set was relatively straightforward for the siblings from Chinese Taipei. They broke the serve of Sevastova to go up 3-1 after Ostapenko buried a volley into the net on deciding point. They then claimed Ostapenko’s service game to lead 5-1, following a winning volley by Hao-ching.
Hao-ching’s serve was broken in the next game, giving the Latvians life, but the younger sister redeemed herself at 5-2, hitting multiple volley winners to break the Sevastova serve once more, and clinch the opening set.
The Latvian pair hung tough in the opening stages of the second set, particularly due to the outlandishly speedy groundstrokes of Ostapenko, who brought her power game to the doubles court and elicited gasps from the crowd once it fully clicked in the second set.
But at 4-3, the Chans broke Sevastova on the back of consecutive winning volleys -- one per sister -- giving Latisha the opportunity to serve for the match. Ostapenko blasted a service return into the net down match point, giving the Chan sisters an opening-round victory in 65 minutes.
In other matches on Thursday, Gabriela Dabrowski, who partnered Ostapenko to win the Qatar Total Open last month, advanced to the second round with her regular teammate, Xu Yifan. 3rd-seeded Dabrowski and Xu overcame a disastrous first set to defeat Ashleigh Barty and CoCo Vandeweghe, 1-6, 6-1, [10-6].
Reigning Australian Open champions and No.4 seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic also moved into the second round, coming back from an early break down to beat Nadiia Kichenok and Anastasia Rodionova, 7-6(3), 6-0.
The Pliskova twins, Karolina and Kristyna, played together on the WTA for the first time since 2016, but lost in the first round to No.5 seeds Monica Niculescu and Andrea Sestini Hlavackova, 6-2, 2-6, [10-4].
Finally, singles World No.1 Simona Halep also took a shot in the doubles draw, but she and compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu lost their opener to Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke, 6-3, 1-6, [10-3]. Quite a few singles stars are testing their skills in the doubles event this year, as a $1 million bonus will be awarded to any player who can win both the singles and doubles titles this year.
“It’s great that you can see the strong singles players join us to play the doubles, and I think that’s a great opportunity for all the fans to see all of us on the doubles court,” Latisha Chan said. “They just need maybe a few more matches, a few more opportunities to get into the doubles, then I’m sure doubles can be really competitive.”