No.1 seeds Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula squeaked into their third straight WTA 1000 doubles final with a comeback semifinal win at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Thursday.
The all-American pairing of Gauff and Pegula fought back from a set and a break down to outlast No.3 seeds Desirae Krawczyk of the United States and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands 4-6, 7-6(5), [10-8] after 1 hour and 53 minutes of play in Rome.
In Saturday's final, Gauff and Pegula will face No.4 seeds Storm Hunter and Elise Mertens, who defeated unseeded Marie Bouzkova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5, 6-4 in Thursday's second semifinal.
This week's finalists met earlier this year in the Miami quarterfinals on hard court, where Gauff and Pegula edged Hunter and Mertens 6-7(4), 7-5, [10-2] on their way to the title.
3rd Successive Final 👏@CocoGauff and @JLPegula defeat Krawczyk/Schuurs to land a spot in the final in Rome!#IBI23 pic.twitter.com/d9lJpW1IjO— wta (@WTA) May 18, 2023
WTA 1000 excellence: Gauff and Pegula have been the dominant team at the most recent WTA 1000 events, winning the title on the hard courts of Miami and finishing as runners-up to Victoria Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad Maia on the Madrid clay.
After the tight victory over Krawczyk and Schuurs in Rome on Thursday, Gauff and Pegula have now won 13 of their last 14 matches at WTA 1000-level. Gauff and Pegula are a win away from their fourth WTA 1000 title as a duo, and their sixth team title overall.
Key moments: Krawczyk and Schuurs went up a double-break at 5-2 in the opener before holding on for the one-set lead. They broke Gauff's serve in the opening game of the second set to claim the set-and-a-break advantage.
But Schuurs dropped serve with a double fault to level the second set at 4-4. In a closely-contested second-set tiebreak, Pegula fired a deft lob beyond Schuurs to convert her team's first set point at 6-5, tying up the match.
Exactly half the points went to the returners in the decisive match-tiebreak, where Gauff and Pegula reached double match point at 9-7 after Krawczyk netted a rally backhand. On their second match point, Gauff fired a backhand passing winner down the line to attain victory.
Gauff and Pegula had six more winners and six fewer unforced errors than their opponents in the match.
First final as a team 🙌— wta (@WTA) May 18, 2023
4th seeds @elise_mertens and @stormsanders94 defeat Bouzkova/Mattek-Sands under the lights to reach the final in Rome!#IBI23 pic.twitter.com/i5TCJIJiHt
Hunter and Mertens advance: In the evening semifinal, Hunter of Australia and Belgium's Mertens came back from a break down in both sets and prevailed in 1 hour and 38 minutes. It is their first team final, having paired up for the first time at the start of this year.
Hunter and Mertens were down 5-2 in the opening set before they reeled off five straight games to eke out the one-set lead en route to victory. Hunter and Mertens finished the match with 24 winners to 16 unforced errors, and they converted half of their 10 break points.