GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Storm Sanders and Luisa Stefani won their first team title at the Guadalajara Open Akron on Sunday, defeating Anna Danilina and Beatriz Haddad Maia 7-6(4), 6-7(3), 10-8 in the final.
Guadalajara is Sanders' fifth career doubles title and third of the season, having won Adelaide with Ashleigh Barty and Berlin with Katerina Siniakova. Former World No.9 Stefani has now won two of her four comeback tournaments after rupturing her ACL at the US Open last fall and being sidelined for 12 months. Stefani won her comeback event last month, taking the title in Chennai with Gabriela Dabrowski.
"I had so much fun with Lu," Sanders said. "It's awesome. Super proud of her. She's been injured for a long time. This is her fourth tournament back. She's back like she never left."
Guadalajara is Sanders' first WTA 1000 and second for Stefani, who won 2021 Montreal with Dabrowski.
It was a busy day for Sanders and Stefani, who had to pull double duty after rain postponed their semifinal to Sunday. The Australian-Brazilian duo took care of business in the afternoon, defeating Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan 5-7, 6-4, 10-5 to earn their final spot.
Both unseeded teams enjoyed Cinderella runs in Guadalajara, having defeated three seeded teams each. Sanders and Stefani defeated No.2 seeds Elise Mertens and Veronika Kudermetova, No.6 seeds Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez, and No.8 seeds Xu and Yang during the week.
Danilina and Haddad Maia, Australian Open runner-ups in January, became the final qualifiers for the WTA Finals in Fort Worth by defeating top seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in the quarterfinals.
After Sanders and Stefani edged the first set in a tiebreak, the duo broke for a 5-3 lead to earn a chance to serve out the win. But an outstanding return game from Danilina and Haddad Maia earned the break and the team surged ahead with the momentum to dominate the second-set tiebreak and force a match tiebreak.
"There was a lot of ups and downs," Stefani said. "We had a chance. I served for the match 5-3. Like I said, a lot of tension. I haven't had this feeling in a long time. To serve a match out, it was good to be in that position. We ended up losing the set and had to regroup."
Danilina and Haddad Maia continued to seize control in the match tiebreak, building a 7-5. But behind two big returns from Sanders, the eventual champions closed the gap to level the match at 8-all. Sanders landed a clutch forehand drive to earn the team their first match point, which Stefani converted with an aggressive poach to put away a forehand volley.