MELBOURNE, Australia - Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci continued to solidify their status as the No.1 team in the world on Friday, beating an inspired Australian team to win their third Grand Slam title at the Australian Open - in fact they have won three of the last four Grand Slam tournaments now.
The No.1-seeded Errani and Vinci were in control early on, taking the first set and coming within a few games of a straight set win at 62 33; their opponents - Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua - came alive for a while, winning four games in a row to take the second set and break in the first game of the third, but Errani and Vinci regrouped, reeling off six of the next seven games to finish it, 62 36 62.
Errani and Vinci now have 14 WTA doubles titles together and three Grand Slam titles, the French and US Opens last year and the Australian Open this year. In the last 12 months they are 20-1 at Grand Slams, the only loss being the quarters of Wimbledon to Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.
For Barty and Dellacqua it was a breakthrough fortnight, coming in as wildcards and not dropping a set en route to the final, taking out two seeded teams - including the No.3 seeds, Maria Kirilenko and Lisa Raymond. The 16-year-old Barty was the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Tatiana Golovin in the mixed doubles at the 2004 French Open; Dellacqua was playing her third Grand Slam final, having been a doubles runner-up at the 2008 French Open and mixed doubles champion at the 2011 French Open.
"It's disappointing to lose, but on the other hand what an amazing two weeks for Ash and I," Dellacqua said. "We played some great doubles and it's been so much fun. So in that respect, very satisfied.
"Hopefully we get another chance to play them somewhere else and get them next time, because they're pretty tough to play. But I think we were starting to figure them out a little bit today."
Dellacqua gave praise to Barty, who is one of the most promising young stars in the women's game.
"She's just a great kid," Dellacqua said. "She's a really good friend as well. She encourages me on the court. She's like, 'C'mon Case; c'mon buddy.' I just feel so relaxed with her. There are so many players I've played with where I'm like, 'Oh no, I don't want to turn around and talk to my partner.'
"Also, Ash is a really, really good kid and obviously an amazing player for 16. She's beyond any 16-year-old I've probably ever come across. I remember exactly what I was like when I was 16, and Ash is far beyond her years. She's mature, professional and disciplined with all her training. She's doing everything to be the most professional athlete she can be. If she continues to do that, she's got a bright future."
Barty returned the sentiment. "Case and I are great mates off the court. A few times there I had a bit of a lull, Case comes and goes, 'We can get this one.' It felt like we were really close, a lot closer than the score suggested. A point here and there and I think that third set could have really turned.
"We're disappointed, but for me this has been an unbelievable two weeks, an unbelievable tournament."
Will Barty and Dellacqua - the first all-Australian team to reach the Australian Open doubles final since Evonne Goolagong and Helen Gourlay won the title in 1977 - continue to play together?
"Our rankings are going to improve a lot - we'll be able to get into most tournaments," Barty said in the press conference. "Whenever we're in the same place and same country, we'll play together."
"Ash and I are going to continue to play a lot more together," Dellacqua added. "Hopefully all those things from the match, we'll learn from. The more we play together, I think the better we'll be."