Sharon Fichman and Giuliana Olmos staged a tremendous comeback victory in the Internazionali BNL d'Italia doubles final on Sunday, overcoming Kristina Mladenovic and Marketa Vondrousova, 4-6, 7-5, [10-5] to claim the prestigious clay-court title.
Fichman and Olmos had to stave off two championship points on Mladenovic's serve at 5-4 in the second set, then reeled off the final three games of that set and the last four points of the match-tiebreak to triumph after an hour and 35 minutes of play.
"We just really did such a good job of working together as a team this week," Fichman said, in her post-match press conference. "I thought that in the important moments we really showed what we could do. We were super brave. We had a lot of fun."
The Canadian-Mexican pair, who started playing together this season, was almost not even in the main draw this week. They moved into the field as alternates after the team of Ashleigh Barty and Jennifer Brady withdrew from the doubles event.
"I guess it was kind of a fairy tale week in the sense we technically weren't even in the tournament," Fichman said. "We were so pumped to get in the draw when we were told that a team had withdrawn and that we'd be able to play. I think we just rode that momentum and excitement into the first round. You know, we just felt no matter what the situation was, no matter what the score was, we just kept swinging, kept fighting."
Fichman and Olmos made the most of that opportunity by far, knocking out No.1 seeds Hsieh Su-wei and Elise Mertens in the second round, as well as No.4 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara in a weather-delayed semifinal which took place earlier on Sunday.
By virtue of winning their second match of the day and claiming the crown, Fichman and Olmos have each racked up the biggest title of their careers in Rome. It is the fourth WTA doubles title of Fichman's career, and the third for Olmos.
"Even though we had two matches, it felt like they were two different days, like when we were going out for the final, I didn't feel like it was still the same day," Olmos said, after their victory. "I think it helped playing earlier today. We had a little bit of momentum."
The title rejuvenates a solid debut season for the Fichman/Olmos team, after Fichman recovered from a serious shoulder injury. Prior to that, they reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in their first Grand Slam together -- the farthest either of them have ever gone in a major.
Despite losing the final, Mladenovic is still projected to return to WTA Doubles World No.1 on Monday, replacing Mertens. It was also a career-best week in doubles for Vondrousova, who reached her first-ever WTA doubles final.
Mladenovic, in fact, was the key player in the opening frame, as she was the only one of the four to not drop serve. Mladenovic and Vondrousova powered 15 winners to just five unforced errors as they eased to the one-set lead.
Mladenovic did drop serve in her first service game of the second set, though, as Fichman and Olmos swept to a 4-1 lead. But key volleying by both members of the French-Czech tandem helped them knock off four games in a row to lead 5-4 and have Mladenovic serve for the trophy.
Mladenovic held two championship points in that game, but she was also plagued by double faults within it. On deciding point, which was the pair’s second championship point, Mladenovic hit her third double fault of the game to cede her serve and allow Fichman and Olmos to 5-5.
The alternates romped through the rest of the set from there, holding for 6-5, then reaching quadruple set point after a Vondrousova double fault in the next game. On the first of those four, Olmos's return was dropped back into the net by Mladenovic, and the match-tiebreak was set.
At 5-4 in the breaker, Olmos cracked open a rally with a deep shot that forced an error from Vondrousova, giving her squad a 6-4 mini-break. The eventual champions cruised from there, and notched the title after a return winner by Fichman which landed square on the baseline.
"I think just in the 10-point tiebreakers we just played really aggressive, and we really trust each other on the court," said Olmos. "We just played with a lot of heart and it went our way."