DOHA, Qatar - Playing just their fourth tournament together, Gabriela Dabrowski and Jelena Ostapenko captured their first title as a team with a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of No.8 seeds Andreja Klepac and María José Martínez Sánchez in the final of the Qatar Total Open.
For Dabrowski, it marked her seventh career doubles title and second of the year following Sydney, alongside Xu Yifan; in addition, the Canadian is fresh off the Australian Open mixed doubles crown (with Mate Pavic) and the Roland Garros mixed doubles holder (with Rohan Bopanna). Ostapenko, meanwhile, maintained an unbeaten record in doubles finals to claim her third title with as many partners, following St. Petersburg and Stüttgart last year with Alicja Rosolska and Raquel Atawo respectively.
Though Ostapenko's focus is on singles, she said afterwards that doubles wins can be a tremendous boon: "It's great sometimes for your confidence," she acknowledged. "In St. Petersburg and Stüttgart [last year] I won the doubles, and then I won the French Open - so hopefully something similar will happen here!"
For Dabrowski, her focus on doubles was borne out of necessity and practicality. "I made the transition [to becoming a doubles specialist] a few years ago, looking at my finances and the skillset I had, which is clearly better suited to doubles - for now, anyway!" she said.
The Canadian-Latvian duo had only played eight matches as a pair prior to this week - their partnership in Doha was the result of Dabrowski looking for a partner at the last minute after her regular teammate Xu Yifan suffered a back injury in St. Petersburg. "I'd played really well with Jelena before, and I was hoping she hadn't been snatched up," she said.
But they have been upending more established teams all week with their naturally balanced blend of Ostapenko's power and Dabrowski's finesse and all-court instincts. The pattern continued in the first set: after staving off a break point in the opening game with an Ostapenko ace, the pair did not face another for the remainder of the set.
Long-time doubles specialists Klepac and Martínez Sánchez reached deep into their bag of tricks to try to destabilise their opponents, with the Spaniard frequently finding success with deft touch volleys. Her repeated attempts to confound Ostapenko with flicked forehand slice returns were less successful, though, merely giving the 20-year-old time to conjure up lobs or hammer crosscourt groundstrokes at will.
It was the Slovenian-Spanish pair whose concentration would lapse at a crucial moment in the first set, too, with a double fault, groundstroke errors and a netted volley rounding out Klepac's opening service game. It was the 31-year-old, too, who sent a drive volley long facing her team's first set point.
Indeed, it was apparent that despite their inexperience, Dabrowski and Ostapenko had more point-winning options to call on. The Roland Garros champion frequently used her power to set Dabrowski up with overhead putaways, but would also enthusiastically go after her opponents' serves to hammer clean return winners; moreover, the addition of a pinpoint lob to her arsenal has been one of the most evident rewards of her forays into doubles.
Though an immediate break of the Klepac serve to open the second set was handed back immediately courtesy of a handful of errant Ostapenko groundstrokes, the unseeded pair simply stepped up their aggression. Martínez Sánchez found her serve pummeled mercilessly in the fifth game as she was broken to love, with Ostapenko scoring another two clean return winners.
Both Dabrowski and Ostapenko were now rock-solid on serve, taking them to the brink of victory at 5-3; and in a final game marked by two disputes with the umpire from Martínez Sánchez, the Canadian-Latvian team seized their opportunity, Dabrowski intercepting to put away a neat volley on their first match point.