No.2 seeds Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei and Elise Mertens of Belgium won their second WTA doubles title as a team on Saturday, defeating Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, 7-6(1), 6-3 to claim the BNP Paribas Open championship.
After an hour and 34 minutes of play, Hsieh and Mertens added their first WTA 1000 title as a tandem to the Wimbledon title they paired up for earlier this season.
"We tried to play aggressive, Su-wei at the net, me from the back so she can cross," Mertens said, in their champions press conference. "I think it all clicked a little bit better in the second set. So we are really, really happy with the win, and qualified for the [Akron WTA] Finals, so very happy for that too."
Fast facts: Hsieh and Mertens teamed up for the first time during the clay-court season this summer, and the two former Doubles World No.1 players have already established themselves as a formidable pairing on the WTA.
After only eight tournaments as a team, the winners have already picked up two massive titles, with Kudermetova being one of their vanquished runners-up each time. Hsieh and Mertens saved match points to beat Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina in this summer's epic Wimbledon final.
Hsieh and Mertens were stellar returning second serves, winning 70 percent of those points on the day. That helped the victors ease through the two relatively close sets, even though they were out-winnered by Kudermetova and Rybakina by 20 to 16.
Adding titles: Hsieh and Mertens are both repeat winners at the BNP Paribas Open. Mertens pulled off a successful title defense with Saturday's victory, as she won the title alongside Aryna Sabalenka at the most recent edition in 2019.
Hsieh is now a three-time Indian Wells doubles champion, alongside three different partners. She claimed the championship with Peng Shuai in 2014 and with Barbora Strycova in 2018.
"It's really fun to play with different partners," Hsieh said in the press conference. "I collect a lot of friends."
It is a milestone 30th career WTA doubles title for 35-year-old Hsieh, while Mertens now has 14 WTA doubles titles to her name.
Despite the loss, Kudermetova and Rybakina also experienced success as a new pairing. This was only their third event together, and with it they already broke new ground for Rybakina, who was contesting her first WTA doubles final.
Key moments: An early break for Hsieh and Mertens dissipated as the opening set wore on, as the power games of Kudermetova and Rybakina pulled them back on serve at 3-3, punctuated with a winning Rybakina volley.
Hsieh and Mertens reclaimed their advantage with a love break for 6-5, ending with a Kudermetova double fault. But the unseeded duo used their aggressive play to get level once more, as Hsieh let a 30-0 lead on her service slip away.
The opener moved into a tiebreak, which Kudermetova started with aplomb via a powerful overhead winner. But double faults crept back into Kudermetova’s game, as she hit two in a row to hand over a 4-1 lead to Hsieh and Mertens. Two points later, an ace by Hsieh gave the seeded squad two set points, and they converted their first chance after a missed overhead by Kudermetova.
The pairs traded breaks twice in the early stages of the second set, but the wily play of Hsieh and Mertens kept them mostly in charge, often drawing overhead errors from their opponents in the bright sun. Hsieh and Mertens pulled off the critical break of Kudermetova at 5-3, and Mertens wrapped up the win as her solid service sealed another title for her team.