Two three-set thrillers took place in the women's doubles semifinals at Wimbledon on Friday, with No.3 seeds Hsieh Su-wei and Elise Mertens and unseeded Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina booking spots in the championship match.
Hsieh of Chinese Taipei and Mertens of Belgium overcame No.5 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, both from Japan, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, in their semifinal on No.1 Court.
Mertens will now return to WTA Doubles World No.1 following the semifinal victory. Mertens held the WTA World No.1 ranking earlier this year when she reached the summit on May 10 -- it was a spot she held for only one week, but she will now add to that total.
For Hsieh, it is a second straight trip to the Wimbledon final, having won the title in the last edition in 2019 alongside recently-retired Barbora Strycova. She will be looking for her third Wimbledon doubles title with three different partners, having also triumphed with Peng Shuai in 2013.
Shibahara did not drop a point on serve in the first set, but flying volleys and sturdy returns by Hsieh led her team to a love break of Aoyama at 3-3. Hsieh and Mertens eased through the rest of the opener to take the one-set lead.
In the second set, deft returns by Aoyama bolstered Shibahara’s powerful deliveries and overheads, steering her team to level footing at one set apiece. In the third set, though, Hsieh and Mertens took charge with pinpoint volley winners by both, to break Aoyama once more for a 3-1 lead.
With Mertens serving for the match at 5-3, aggressive play by the Japanese duo helped them grab five break points, as they tried to keep the tilt active. But Mertens found a bevy of key service winners to grit through the protracted game, and the Belgian at last closed the match out with an ace on her third match point.
Mertens is now a win away from her second Grand Slam title of the year, having won the 2021 Australian Open with Aryna Sabalenka, and her third major doubles title overall. For former WTA Doubles World No.1 Hsieh, a win would earn her a fourth career Grand Slam women's doubles title.
The loss brought the Wimbledon run of Aoyama and Shibahara to an end, during an excellent season where the team has already won four WTA titles. It was also a sterling result for Shibahara's Wimbledon main-draw debut, as she reached her first Grand Slam semifinal.
For Aoyama, this was her second trip to the Wimbledon semifinals, having reached the same stage in 2013 alongside Chanelle Scheepers. There, too, Aoyama fell to Hsieh, when she was paired with Peng during their title run.
In the second semifinal, the all-Russian duo of Kudermetova and Vesnina came back from the very brink of defeat before outlasting fellow unseeded team Caroline Dolehide of the United States and Storm Sanders of Australia, 7-6(6), 3-6, 7-5.
Kudermetova and Vesnina saved three match points during a furious final-set comeback, collecting the last five games of the match from 2-5 down to triumph after two-and-a-half hours of play.
The Russians had already staged a comeback to win the first set, fighting back from 4-6 and double set point down in the tiebreak with exceptional net play. But the powerful groundstroke play by Dolehide and Sanders helped them hold their nerve in the second set, as they leveled the affair at one set all.
An enthralling third set then occurred, where Kudermetova had to save a whopping five break points on her service to prevent her team from falling behind 5-1. The Russians pulled out that game with positive play by Vesnina, but a Dolehide volley winner in the next game allowed the American-Australian team to reach 5-2.
However, serving for the match at 5-3, Dolehide dropped serve for the first time all day, as the Russians charged forward and picked off winners to break at love and pull back on serve. Nevertheless, after another Kudermetova double fault in the following game, Dolehide and Sanders reached match point.
But Dolehide and Sanders could not convert that one, or the other two match points which followed in this game, as Kudermetova was able to serve her way out of trouble against the Dolehide returns on the ad side. A backhand winner by Kudermetova on her second game point pulled the Russians all the way back to parity at 5-5.
In the final two games, the Russians took charge for good at the net, with a Kudermetova putaway leading to a pivotal break of Sanders, then continuing to storm into the forecourt to garner a love hold by Vesnina.
Vesnina now joins fellow former WTA Doubles World No.1 players Hsieh and Mertens in the final. Vesnina, who has come back from maternity leave this season, seeks her fourth Grand Slam women's doubles title, and her second at Wimbledon. She won in London with Ekaterina Makarova in 2017.
Kudermetova, who is having a career-best year in singles after winning the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, is into her first Grand Slam doubles final.