Unseeded Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan won their first Hologic WTA Tour title as a team at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday, edging past No.7 seeds Asia Muhammad of the United States and Ena Shibahara of Japan 7-5, 7-6(4) to capture the doubles championship.
Xu and Yang, both of China, battled through two very close sets to claim the victory at the WTA 1000 event in Indian Wells after an hour and 43 minutes.
In under the wire: "We're very happy we won the tournament because we were actually trying to get in in the beginning," Xu said, in the victors' post-match press conference. "We weren't able to [at first] because our ranking is pretty low, and we were trying to get in, signing on-site."
Xu and Yang were eventually able to grab a spot in the main draw. "It's like a roller coaster for us," said Xu. "I think it's going up-and-down every day, and we can play or not, and once we got in, we were so excited. And our first match was also close...we were 10-8 in the [match-tiebreak].
"So it wasn't easy, all five rounds, but we're just happy we made it all the way."
The champions fought back from 2-5 down in the opening set. "We just do the positive, it doesn't matter for the score," said Yang. "We just keep going. We go to take every ball, every point, one by one, like this."
🏆 Team title No.1⃣ 🏆— wta (@WTA) March 19, 2022
Zhaoxuan Yang and @XuYifan88 secure the @BNPPARIBASOPEN trophy after a fantastic run in the desert! pic.twitter.com/XaFHTxvLKo
Best team result: Xu and Yang paired up for the first time last season and were teammates at last year's Olympics, where they fell in the second round to Australia's Ashleigh Barty and Storm Sanders.
Xu and Yang made the doubles final in Dubai last season and two additional semifinals earlier this year, but this marks the first time they have captured a trophy as a team.
For Xu, a former WTA Doubles World No.7, it is her 11th Hologic WTA Tour doubles title overall, and her second at WTA 1000-level following 2017 Miami (with Gabriela Dabrowski).
This is Yang's 5th career doubles title at tour-level, and the biggest of her career as she earns her first WTA 1000 title.
Incredible Muhammad run closes: Muhammad's outstanding winning streak in both singles and doubles came to an end with the narrow defeat. Muhammad had won a combined 27 consecutive matches in singles and doubles across all levels.
Muhammad's doubles streak ends at 12 straight victories, but her 15-match singles streak is still alive. The American has won three consecutive ITF Challenger events in singles, all in Australia last month.
🤗🏆🤗#IndianWells pic.twitter.com/QjaXj7Bq0n— wta (@WTA) March 19, 2022
Key plays: A hot 3-0 start by Muhammad and Shibahara gave Muhammad a chance to serve for the first set at 5-3, but Xu and Yang broke the No.7 seeds to get back on serve. Pristine volleying by Xu led her squad to another break for 6-5, where Xu served out the set at love.
In the second set, Xu and Yang did not convert two break points which would have given them a 5-4 lead and a chance to serve for the match. In the next game, more stellar Xu volleys erased two set points for Muhammad and Shibahara, as the set moved to 5-5 again.
This time, a tiebreak would decide matters, and the Chinese team charged to a 6-3 lead and triple championship point. A strong Muhammad volley fended off one championship point, but on the second, one final Xu volley winner wrapped up the title.