No.4 seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens earned a whisker-thin victory to beat defending champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in the doubles championship at the WTA Finals on Monday night.
The final score was 6-2, 4-6, [11-9], and the victors came back from 7-2 down in the match-tiebreak to collect their second team title of the season in 1 hour and 42 minutes.
"It’s tough to say right now, because a lot of emotions," Kudermetova said in press. "But I think we’re so happy and so proud of our team."
It is the first WTA Finals title for both Kudermetova and Mertens. Mertens was runner-up to Krejcikova and Siniakova last year, when she qualified alongside Hsieh Su-wei. Kudermetova made her WTA Finals debut this year.
"I was close last year," Mertens said. "I think we played really consistent this tournament. And yeah, I can’t even believe we won. That super-tiebreak was 7-2? I can’t even remember points."
Kudermetova is projected to rise from No.5 back to her career-high ranking of World No.2. Mertens, a former World No.1 in doubles, is projected to move back into the Top 5 from No.9.
The victory marks Kudermetova's fifth career WTA doubles title, while Mertens is up to 16. After pairing up for the first time just last season, Kudermetova and Mertens have combined for three titles as a duo.
Despite the loss, Siniakova will finish as year-end No.1 in doubles for the second year in a row and the third time in the past five years.
Krejcikova and Siniakova had another superb season, winning three Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. The US Open title completed their career Golden Slam -- titles at each of the four majors and the Olympics. The Czechs lost only four matches together in 2022.
However, Monday belonged to Kudermetova and Mertens, who avenged their loss to the Czechs in this year’s Australian Open semifinals. The teams had 21 winners apiece, but Kudermetova and Mertens had three fewer unforced errors, and they converted all three of their break points.
Both teams went undefeated in round-robin play, but it was Kudermetova and Mertens who had the hot start in the final. They found powerful returns to break the defending champions twice in a row and lead 4-0, eventually easing to the one-set advantage.
In the second set, Kudermetova and Mertens powered to a break lead at 4-3, but a Krejcikova forehand forced a rare volley error from Kudermetova to level matters at 4-4. The Czechs were on fire for the rest of the set, winning the next two games without the loss of a point.
The match-tiebreak settled affairs, and the Czechs jumped way ahead after a forehand winner by Krejcikova put them up 7-2. However, more exceptional volleying by Kudermetova helped her squad win five points in a row, leveling the breaker at 7-7.
Krejcikova and Siniakova saved a championship point at 9-8, but a fiery Kudermetova crosscourt forehand gave her team a second chance at 10-9. There, a strong Mertens return forced a Krejcikova volley wide, and Kudermetova and Mertens had closed out last year's champions.
"In that tiebreak when it was 2-7, I said to Elise that we need to believe, we need to stay positive, and it doesn’t matter what happens, we keep working," Kudermetova said.
Added Mertens: "I think it just kind of clicked this week. You’ve got some weeks it doesn’t click, some weeks that it does, and this week we took our opportunities."