Alexa Guarachi and Darija Jurak capped off their successful season starts by pairing up to win the biggest title of their careers at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, defeating Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan 6-0, 6-3 in Saturday's final. The win is Jurak's seventh career doubles title and Guarachi's fourth, with the Chilean-American having won her third just two weeks ago at the Adelaide International with her regular partner, Desirae Krawczyk.
En route to the title, Guarachi and Jurak earned a big win over Qatar Total Open champions Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs in the quarterfinals, avenging last week's opening-round loss in Doha. Guarachi and Jurak learned a lot from that Doha loss, mainly that they were playing on the wrong sides.
"In Doha we played our first match and then we realized what we need to change and we got another chance in Dubai," Jurak told WTA Insider. "We switched sides, which was a really good idea. We communicated much better. We were trying to plan every point, every situation so we don't get caught in no man's land."
Guarachi and Jurak sat down with WTA Insider after their title run in Dubai to discuss the tactical keys to their big win, reveal the reasons for each of their strong starts to the 2021 season, and explain why they're in a big rush to get home.
WTA Insider: What was the key to your winning week?
Jurak: In Doha, we played our first match and then we realized what we need to change and we got another chance in Dubai. We switched sides, which was a really good idea. We communicated much better. We were trying to plan every point, every situation so we don't get caught in no man's land.
Guarachi: I think we both kind of know our strengths and weaknesses. We help each other out so much. I try to set her up from the back and she takes over the net. We complement each other well. Our communication was really good and we just had to play with a lot of energy in all of our matches.
WTA Insider: Tactically, what did switching sides change for you as a team?
Jurak: I feel a higher percentage of returns were coming better when we switched sides. I feel also Alexa is sharper on the baseline and sets me up better at the net.
I felt like if I'm returning on deuce or ad, I can come in on both sides. So that was not a problem that much for me. Alexa is more natural on the ad side and I'm like, OK, go for it, because I'm not giving enough returns as much as you gave it to me, so it's more understandable to switch.
Guarachi: I usually take all the deuce points and I'm just more comfortable on the ad side. So yeah, making the switch I think was a huge turning point for us. We played with a lot more confidence.
WTA Insider: Having that flexibility as a doubles player must be a huge advantage for both of you.
Guarachi: It's funny, Darija told me that she won this tournament on the deuce side and so she's very open to trying it.
I think a good doubles player is being open to changes because you're always going to be a little uncomfortable. And making changes like that is huge, being flexible because you never know who you're going to play with one week. Honestly, it helps make your week stronger as well. It was a really good decision.
Jurak: Also considering Alexa won Adelaide playing on the ad side, then she came to Doha. We don't know how we would click. I was like play the ad side because you won the tournament anyway so you have so much confidence.
Guarachi: Darija's the veteran so I just listen to her.
WTA Insider: Alexa, since the restart you've been playing some of your best tennis. You made the Roland Garros final last fall, won Adelaide two weeks ago, now a WTA 1000. What's been the difference for you?
Guarachi: I'm just playing with a lot of confidence. I'm playing with a lot of energy. I don't feel like tennis-wise -- I mean, I'm working on things here and there -- but I don't think I've made huge changes or anything.
I think it's just every match, learning from it and gaining confidence is huge. Being able to play that string of matches in Adelaide gave me a lot of confidence to come into these couple of tournaments.
WTA Insider: It's also impressive that you won Adelaide and Dubai with two different partners.
Guarachi: For me, it's most important that I get along with my partner. We can communicate well and I'm friends with them.
Darija and I actually practiced a couple of times in Abu Dhabi just by chance and we just really clicked. I really liked her personality. Desirae (Krawczyk) told me that she wasn't going to play these tournaments, so I was looking for a partner and I was like, oh, I really like to play with Darija. I really get along with her. She seems very flexible. We can make things work. It turned out really well.
Jurak: Thanks for picking me!
WTA Insider: Darija you've also had a great start to the season, making the semifinals at the Australian Open with Nina Stojanovic. How important was that tournament for you in terms of building up your confidence and setting yourself up for this week in Dubai?
Jurak: Yeah, definitely a lot of confidence because we had matches and matches in Australia. We were playing five matches, all three-setters.
Beating Strycova/Hsieh, that gave us, at least to me, a mental boost. I can see, OK, I can play against top players. I can beat them. Because I always get stuck against the seeded players and then I lose second or third round.
Finally, I broke the ice and it clicked with me. I belong here, you know? There's always a turning point in tennis where it has to click sooner or later, but you have to wait for the right opportunity and I think it will appear.
This is what is happening to me this year because I start believing I can. I believed before, but now I'm starting to execute the shots which before I would doubt.
For me, it's a big factor because sometimes I'm hard on myself. That really helped me, that Nina was pushing me in the right moment. And then the next day she had a crisis and I pushed her. So it's complementing each other. It's a completely different story when you have somebody on your side who is rising with you together like a team and believes in that team effort.
With some other girls, it's you for yourself and me for myself. It's tough to find that chemistry and in doubles, you need to have chemistry. The chemistry for me is the key that I enjoy and then when I enjoy I play better tennis.
WTA Insider: Were you surprised things clicked so quickly between the two of you during this swing?
Jurak: I felt that there is something. Even when we lost against Melichar/Schuurs in Doha -- and that loss for me was so hard in general because I believed in us from the beginning -- I still enjoyed it. That doesn't happen for me that often, that I enjoy losing. It's a huge turnaround in my mental state of mind for me. And then I'm like, OK, well, if I'm enjoying losing, it has to open. When you are enjoying something in the life, something good comes.
Guarachi: I think winning tournaments always comes with a little luck. You have to have the right draw, you have to have the right situations. I think we just took advantage of it. We really were excited to play Melichar and Schuurs again and be on different sides. We came out with a new attitude.
WTA Insider: This has been a long road trip for both of you. You haven't been home since the start of the season. Will you get a break now before Miami?
Guarachi: Going home. Our husbands are going to kill us.
Jurak: My husband is going to divorce me if I spend one more day away. In the morning, I will be on that flight.
WTA Insider: What are you most looking forward to?
Jurak: A nice dinner with my husband and my puppy, Armani.
Guarachi: I'm the same. My husband and my dog, Bee. Spending time with family.
Jurak: And having that glass of wine finally and cheering for a very good two months on the road and being really grateful for what I have. This is a tough situation for the whole world and we are lucky that we can play and compete and have that kind of success, thank you, Lord.