DOHA, Qatar - Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova earned a milestone victory in more ways than one on Friday at the Qatar Total Open.
The top-seeded pair beat former champions and No.6 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Jelena Ostapenko in the championship match, 6-2, 5-7, 10-2, to seal their third title of the season and a piece of recent WTA history.
With the victory, Hsieh and Strycova become just the second doubles team to sweep the WTA events in the Middle East by winning Doha and Dubai in the same year. Americans Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber also swept the Middle East in 2012, in a year in which they won five titles and reached eight finals.
"It also means a lot for us. It's not easy to always travel from Dubai, then here. You know, we play also singles, so it's a lot of matches, but also it's tough mentally and physically," Strycova said after the match.
"We got together and it's great, I mean we are the second team [to do this], so it's really unbelievable. We should be proud of us."
In addition, the victory will propel Hsieh back to the top of the WTA doubles rankings, as she'll supplant Kristina Mladenovic in the top spot on Monday for her ninth career week as World No.1.
Hsieh added: "I kept telling her, 'Just relax this tournament,' and then we won the first tournament in Dubai and then this tournament I say, 'Oh, just relax again,' and then she helped the team to win the title. Barbora helps a lot too because I was not thinking about No. 1 at the Australian Open or here, but once I get to No. 1, I was like, 'Oh, I'm back to No. 1, so thank you.'"
The moment of victory!— WTA (@WTA) February 28, 2020
.@BaraStrycova and Hsieh Su-wei beat Dabrowski and Ostapenko 6-2, 5-7, 10-2 to become the 1st team to achieve the Middle East sweep in the same season since @lisaraymond73 and Liezel Huber in 2012. pic.twitter.com/MlZfSti7Ki
A nine-game run for the top seeds from a 2-0 deficit in the first set look as though it would be the defining moment in the match, as Hsieh and Strycova jumped to a 6-2, 3-0 lead in little more than a half hour.
However, Dabrowski and Ostapenko - who boasted an undefeated, 9-0 record in Doha entering the match by virtue of a win in 2018 and their run this week - stormed back after getting on the board on a winner-take-all deuce point in the fourth game.
The No.6 seeds won five of the next six games from 3-0 down - and could've made it six straight, had Hsieh and Strycova not escaped in a fifth game in which they saved three break points - to earn Ostapenko an opportunity to serve for the second set.
"We started like 0-2 in two minutes, but we bounced back and we were playing really good, I have to say. We were crossing a lot, we were aggressive and it was 6-2 pretty quickly and then 4-1," Strycova said.
"And then it started to roll on the other side because I was missing three easy volleys and I was kind of very frustrated about it because we could lead even more. I was thinking about it, so it got a little bit complicated at the end."
Though the Latvian dropped serve courtesy of a double fault and a forehand error from 30-30, the former champions made no mistake the second time around, and sent the match to a tiebreak via Dabrowski's serve.
However, Hsieh and Strycova would not be denied and an emphatic start to the decider helped them cruise to victory, as they won the first six points and never looked back.
"In the tiebreak, I think we got together everything and we were playing really good tennis, I have to say, very aggressive, very doubles," the Czech continued.
"So I am very happy, not just about today, but about these two weeks. We had really amazing two weeks, winning so many matches, winning so many battles and it showed us also I think that we are very strong mentally.
"I was frustrated of the mistakes I did at the net. I went for it, but it didn't go through, the volleys, it was pretty kind of like easy volleys and I was thinking about it for too long. And the tiebreak can go really quick, so coach and Su-Wei tried to calm me down, which helped me. And then I got together and, yeah, so that's why we won, I think, that tiebreak."
The victory bumps up Hsieh and Strycova's overall record to 17-1 this season, as their trophies from Doha and Dubai are accompanied by a victory at the Brisbane International to start the season. Their lone defeat came in the Australian Open final, where they were upended by Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic.
"It feels unreal, kind of. I always say to myself that it's awesome, it's really great, it's a great effort what we are doing on the court, but we have to also appreciate it as well and not to take it like it's like normal, or whatever," Strycova continued.
"It's not. It's really tough and every match is tough and everyone is playing against us really high level and we have to continue playing the high level for right now two weeks and we did that."