No.2 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara moved to 1-0 in Group Teochtitlán after defeating No.7 seeds Darija Jurak and Andreja Klepac 6-0, 6-4 in a 67-minute debut at the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara.
No.4 seeds Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Demi Schuurs followed them with an even quicker opener, beating No.5 seeds Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-2 in just 63 minutes.
The Japanese pair lead the tour in doubles titles this season, capturing five across all three surfaces. Their most prestigious title came on the hard courts of the Miami Open in April. Aoyama and Shibahara are the fifth and sixth Japanese women to qualify for the season-ending championships, joining Kimiko Date, Rika Fujiwara, Ai Sugiyama and Naomi Osaka.
"We started very well and [Ena] had a really good return today," Aoyama said on court. "She helped me and I tried to give my all."
The match began ominously for Jurak and Klepac, as Aoyama/Shibahara reeled off the first eight points of the match and raced through the opening set without losing a game. At 5-0, Klepac received treatment on her lower back and hip from the trainer.
Klepac/Jurak responded to the lopsided opening set by breaking early in the second set, leading 2-1. But Aoyama and Shibahara played the deuce deciding points incredibly well on this day, as they broke right back to level the second set.
Both teams would continue to hold serve through the next five games before Aoyama and Shibahara took advantage of their opponents' shaky net play to earn a match point at 5-4. Jurak could not close out her service game from 30-0 up and the Japanese duo closed out the win after prevailing on a deciding point.
"We felt really good coming out today," Shibahara said. "They're such a tough team. We had a tough match against them in Chicago. We knew what we had to do to win today and we did well."
Aoyama/Shibahara combined for five aces in the match compared to their opponents' one, and went 6-for-9 on break points against the Jurak/Klepac serve.
Melichar-Martinez and Schuurs had lost a 6-3, 6-7(5), [10-4] heartbreaker to Stosur and Zhang in the Cincinnati quarterfinals in their only previous meeting. But here, they dominated the US Open champions from the outset and never let up.
The American-Dutch duo jumped out to a quick 3-0 double-break lead, and though Stosur and Zhang retrieved one of those breaks, it would be the last time either Melichar-Martinez or Schuurs would drop serve.
With Schuurs swarming the net and both players pulling finely angled returns, they regained the double break to close out the first set. In the second set, they were even more authoritative, reeling off the last five games of the match from 1-2 down.
Highlights: Melichar-Martinez/Schuurs d. Stosur/Zhang
"We are very proud," said Schuurs. "We had a good week of practice and we were ready for it. I think today we showed some really great tennis. Our opponents were strong but we played better."
For Melichar-Martinez, the key had been that they had both excelled in departments that were usually the other one's forte.
"Normally I'm the one with the big serve and Demi with the good return," she said. "So I'm glad it was the opposite!"