NEW YORK, NY, USA -- Pairing up for the very first time at the 2020 US Open, Laura Siegemund of Germany and Vera Zvonareva of Russia ended their team tournament debut with an exciting activity -- hoisting a Grand Slam trophy.
The unseeded tandem defeated No.3 seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Xu Yifan of China, 6-4, 6-4, on Friday afternoon to claim the women’s doubles title in an entertaining affair on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"I think these moments like today, memories of these moments, they kind of keep you going," said 36-year-old veteran Zvonareva, who came back to tour after giving birth to her daughter, Evelyn. "It's special. It's something that you worked so hard for. Then you're able to lift that trophy. I think, yeah, this is one of the biggest reasons to continue playing."
"My daughter, of course, she does not understand, because -- it was my birthday a few days ago," Zvonareva smiled, recalling the post-victory call to her family. "When my husband told her, 'Okay, say congratulations to Mommy,' she said, 'Mommy, happy birthday.' I was like, it was five days ago, but it's okay, I'll take it. I'll still take it."
The 79-minute victory over the third seeds in the final completed the run for the champions, who had never played together prior to this event. Siegemund and Zvonareva swept to victory in the final by breaking their opponents' serves three times; they also got 73 percent of their first serve points into play, and won nearly 80 percent of points when they did that.
"It's not a random choice that we play with each other because we both feel like we can complement each other's game," Siegemund stated. "Then something that turns out during the journey through the two weeks is that you really, like, in our case, I really realized her game style is complementing me."
"But the communication has to be really spot on, the way you prepare for a match, how you do tactics, all that, it just fit really well," Siegemund continued. "That's something you that realize down the road."
It was the third upset of a seeded team Siegemund and Zvonareva executed during the fortnight, having knocked off No.7 seeds Victoria Azarenka and Sofa Kenin in the second round before a stunning win over No.2 seeds and defending champions Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka in the quarterfinals.
"One of the most important things that I was enjoying my time on the court with Laura, she made me feel good on the court," said Zvonareva. "She was very supportive. I think that helped us a lot to get through some tough matches."
Zvonareva has now claimed her second US Open women's doubles title (alongside her 2006 title with Nathalie Dechy) and her third Grand Slam women’s doubles title overall. The Russian has also won two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles in her career, including the 2004 US Open partnered with Bob Bryan.
Siegemund notched her first-ever Grand Slam women’s doubles title. The German previously won the 2016 US Open mixed doubles title, taking that trophy alongside Mate Pavic, who won the 2020 US Open men's doubles title on Thursday.
The unseeded pairing got off to a superb start, as Siegemund in particular scampered all around the court to put away shot after shot, building a 4-1, double-break lead with Zvonareva. After a commanding hold by Zvonareva for 5-1, the German-Russian tandem were on the brink of a swift one-set lead.
"People keep telling me I was flying all over the court," Siegemund said with a smile. "I don't know. I have to look at it. I feel I was doing my job and going by my instincts."
Melichar and Xu, though, chipped away at the deficit they faced, and improving forecourt play by the duo was rewarded when Siegemund double faulted on break point to let the seeded players pull to 5-3.
Melichar was then in extreme danger on her serve in the next game, when she had to stare down four set points, but aggressive serving by the American on key points led her to a hold.
Siegemund and Zvonareva had to regroup after missing those chances, and were dragged into another tough game, with Melichar and Xu coming out on top in some protracted rallies. But on the second set point of the game -- the sixth overall -- another exciting rally was ended when a Zvonareva drop volley forced a Melichar error, giving the unseeded team the first set.
"I was really happy that I got out of there [the starting] blocks so good," said Siegemund. "It's always good to have a good start. It does set you up for the rest of the match."
Siegemund and Zvonareva claimed what proved to be the critical break in the first game of the second set, as, once again, the German took charge at the net, pouncing on a volley to force an error from Xu on break point.
Solid serving by Melichar and pristine passes by Xu helped the No.3 seeds hold serve for the rest of the set, but they were never able to reach break point in the second frame. Once a volley winner by Zvonareva punctuated a love service hold for 5-3 by Siegemund, the first-time pairing were on the brink of keeping their undefeated team record alive.
Melichar breezed to a hold for 5-4, putting the onus on Zvonareva to serve out the victory. The Russian was up to the task, racing to double championship point. On the first one, a stellar serve by Zvonareva was returned barely wide by Melichar, and after a challenge confirmed that result, Siegemund and Zvonareva were celebrating a signature Grand Slam title.