The Brazilian duo of Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos are the first champions at the 2023 Australian Open, teaming up to win the mixed doubles title on Rod Laver Arena on Friday afternoon.
Stefani and Matos defeated India's Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna 7-6(2), 6-2 in 1 hour and 27 minutes to take the crown. It is the first Grand Slam title of any kind for both Stefani and Matos, and they are the first all-Brazilian doubles team to win a Grand Slam title.
"A dream come true," Stefani said. "It's really special to share with Rafa because it's our first Grand Slam title. ... Making history for Brazil. Brazilians here together in Australia, extremely special."
Mirza, who spent 91 weeks as WTA Doubles World No.1, finishes as runner-up in the final Grand Slam event of her career. Mirza's last events will be doubles play in Abu Dhabi (with Bethanie Mattek-Sands) and Dubai (with Madison Keys) in February.
"I think that if I had to picture dream scenario in my head how I want to go out, it would be on center court, biggest or one of the biggest arenas in the world," Mirza said. "Of course I would win in that dream, but I didn't in this one.
"We are very proud of our efforts. You know, Rohan and I go obviously a long way back, but just the fact that we are still here playing at the highest level is something that we are very proud of ourselves for. To do it together, to be able to do it with one of my best friends, has been really special."
As for Stefani, her first Grand Slam title extends her excellent comeback from injury to new heights. Stefani suffered an ACL injury during the 2021 US Open women's doubles semifinals and was off tour for nearly an entire year.
After returning in September of 2022, former Doubles World No.9 Stefani has been a force, winning three of her six career Hologic WTA Tour women's doubles titles (along with a WTA 125 title) during the last five months.
Luisa Stefani blew out her knee at the 2021 US Open. She returned to competition in September.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 27, 2023
🏆 Chennai 250 (w/ Dabrowski)
🏆 Guadalajara 1000 (w/ Hunter)
🏆 Montevideo 125K (w/ Gammara Martins)
🏆 Adelaide 500 2 (w/ Townsend)
🏆 #AusOpen Mixed (w/ Matos) pic.twitter.com/y1bDrWik5a
Stefani is 18-3 in women's doubles and now 7-0 in mixed doubles since she has been back on tour. Stefani and Matos warmed up for their Australian Open title run by winning both of their United Cup mixed doubles matches for Team Brazil earlier in the month.
"Besides not taking tennis for granted or matches for granted -- I don't think I ever really did even before injury -- but I think it really showed me what I have outside of tennis as well, especially being near family, being back home, and how much we can do through sport," Stefani said.
"I really tried to get everybody together to have the goal to come back stronger, work on my tennis, [and] enjoy really the outside part when we were on tour that we're not able to. It's paying off. I'm just really happy and willing to keep it going."
Stefani's volleys and Matos's left-handed groundstrokes overcame the powerful Mirza forehand and Bopanna's net presence, with the Brazilians converting four of their six break points on the day.
The champions came back from 5-3 down in the first set, and Stefani saved a set point on her delivery at 6-5 by jamming Mirza into a return error with a big second serve. Strong Matos volleys gave his squad a 5-2 lead in the tiebreak, and they squeezed out the set en route to victory.
"It feels really good," Matos said. "To play with another Brazilian, a friend that we [know for] a long time, it's just really special. We receive a lot of energy and message from Brazilians, from our families, friends. It was really special, this moment for us."