DUBAI, UAE - Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza continued to position themselves as one of the best doubles teams in the world on Saturday afternoon, beating Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik for their second Premier-level title of the year at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Mattek-Sands and Mirza, who didn't lose a set en route to the final, were in all kinds of trouble in that final, winning the first set but dropping the second set and falling behind 6-3 in the match tie-break; but they kept calm and carried on, winning seven of the last eight points of the match to outdo the No.2-seeded Petrova and Srebotnik, 64 26 107, finishing it off with a big Mirza ace up the middle.
"When you play a final it's not really just about tennis - it's a lot about nerves and trying to keep positive," Mirza said. "It's the ones who are gutsy, or gutsier than the others at that given point of time, who come through. When we went down 4-0 in the second set we were a little passive and defensive. When you play people like Nadia and Kata, you have to be offensive. They're both 6' tall, to start with. We knew we had to attack more. And we knew that in a super tie-break anything can happen."
In a sport where so many players are so serious on the court, Mattek-Sands and Mirza are a breath of fresh air, always smiling, laughing, shaking off the bad times and embracing the good ones.
"We're generally pretty cheerful people, I think," Mirza said.
"Except in the early morning practices," Mattek-Sands added quietly, pointing to Mirza.
"I think that's what gets us through a lot of matches," Mirza continued. "We're great friends, of course, but I think more than that we really enjoy playing tennis. There's no point getting down on yourself. That kind of works for us. Maybe it doesn't work for everyone, but it works for us. Even when we're smiling in between points, we know when we play it's going to be intense again and we're going to be right back. I like to smile and enjoy tennis and competing, and live for moments like that.
"Fortunately I found somebody who can do that too."
Mirza has been competing exclusively in doubles since Wimbledon eight months ago, and was asked whether it's a different feeling to win a doubles tournament than to win a singles tournament.
"To me, winning a tournament is winning a tournament; winning a Slam is winning a Slam," she said. "I was fortunate enough in my career to play eight years of singles and doubles at the highest level. Sometimes you have to make some tough decisions for your career, and after having three surgeries in five years I had to decide whether I wanted to play for another year in singles and doubles, or another few more years of tennis. And I love playing tennis too much to just let it go in another year.
"There's not really a difference in the feeling if you win. You enjoy that feeling. You want to win every time you play singles, doubles or mixed doubles. It doesn't matter. You just want to win."
Mattek-Sands can't get enough of both disciplines, though. "I've always said my whole career that playing doubles is better than any practice session you can do," she said. "You're serving, you're returning, you're playing points, you're under pressure. But what Sania said is true - physically it can be an issue. You have to keep up and be able to play twice a day, and week in and week out."
The US-Indian duo has now won four WTA doubles titles together - Cincinnati in 2007, Brussels in 2012 and now Brisbane and Dubai in 2013. Mattek-Sands now has 12 WTA doubles titles, Mirza 16.