PARIS, France - A heavyweight clash between the previous two winning teams at Roland Garros saw No.2 seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic take the honors in a high-quality semifinal thriller, edging No.4 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 in two hours and 29 minutes.
The defending champions needed to find their best form to post their third win over the 2018 titlists in as many meetings, this time being stretched to a decider for the first time. Babos and Mladenovic had previously beaten the Czech duo twice in 2018, 7-5, 7-6(6) in the Birmingham semifinals and 6-4, 7-5 in the WTA Finals title round. Today's win moves the Australian Open champions into their second Grand Slam final of the year; having been withdrawn from the US Open due to the tournament's coronavirus protocol, Babos and Mladenovic remain unbeaten on the major stage in 2020, and overall have been defeated just once this season, by Gabriela Dabrowski and Jelena Ostapenko in the Doha semifinals.
The Franco-Hungarian pair would have to save two break points off the bat on Babos's serve, but once some strong serving had seen those off took firm control. Preying on the Siniakova delivery in particular paid dividends: the first of several superb Babos crosses gave the higher seeds an opening in the fourth game, and the World No.10 conceded it by double faulting down break point.
Babos would cough up a series of uncharacteristically loose groundstroke errors to lose the break advantage immediately - but made up for it by coming up with brilliant shots at key moments to resume her team's stranglehold on the set. A searing off forehand return winner from the Hungarian captured the Krejcikova serve for 4-2, and another well-timed cross saved break point on the Mladenovic delivery en route to building a 5-2 lead, before a series of Czech errors ended the set with Siniakova conceding her delivery once again.
The Shenzhen champions remained at sea as the second set got under way, losing the first eight points in startlingly quick fashion in a flurry of errors. But Mladenovic, despite her team's comfortable lead, would struggle with her serve all day, committing at least one double fault in all but one of her service games - and finally this came back to bite her. A fourth and fifth double fault paved the way for her opponents to regain a foothold in the match - and Siniakova took the opportunity with alacrity, slotting away a volley winner for the break back.
A tight passage of play in which both Siniakova and Babos successfully saved break points ensued, before the lower seeds broke through in the seventh game following a succession of netted shots from the three-time major winners - a lead they held through the rest of the set, sealing the second act as Mladenovic sent another forehand into the net.
That set the stage for a wonderful deciding set in which both teams went toe to toe from every corner of the court. All four competitors played their role in a sequence of thrilling exchanges that featured phenomenal gets, lightning-sharp reflexes and delicate finesse.
But it was the defending champions having to battle harder at the start of the set: Babos had to survive five deuces, saving two break points, in a marathon opening game, and Mladenovic would need to come through three in the third game. Though the pair came up with some superb tennis to win those tussles, Krejcikova and Siniakova maintained the pressure, and got their reward as Krejcikova essayed a delectable cross to break Babos for 3-2.
But, buoyed by support from Mladenovic's home crowd, the higher seeds buckled down to break back immediately, with Krejcikova sending a lob long down a second break point on her serve. As the contest headed toward its dénouement, neither team seemed ready to give any ground: Krejcikova faced a match point down 4-5, and Mladenovic a break point in the subsequent game, but both those doors were slammed firmly shut by clutch service winners.
Fittingly, the longest game of the match would be the final one. With Siniakova taking her turn to serve to stay alive, the Czech team held double game point to level at 6-6 - only for Babos and Mladenovic to throw all they had at closing the win out then and there, with ferocious forehand return winners from the latter proving key. Krejcikova and Siniakova would valiantly fend off a further four match points in this game, but when Siniakova's fourth double fault brought up a sixth, they made no mistake, Mladenovic angling the most delicate of drop-volleys to seal an epic victory.