No.7 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe notched an upset on Day 1 of the GNP Seguros WTA Finals Cancun, battling to a 7-6(2), 6-3 win over No.1 seeds Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula in group play.
Reigning US Open champions Dabrowski and Routliffe fought back from 4-1 down in the first set on their way to the 1-hour and 25-minute victory. Dabrowski and Routliffe, who started their partnership just this summer, have won 13 of their last 16 matches.
Dabrowski and Routliffe will start group play at the top of the Mahahual Group with a 1-0 record, while Gauff and Pegula begin 0-1. The other teams in the Mahahual Group are No.4 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova and No.6 seeds Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva.
Americans Gauff and Pegula, co-ranked No.1 in the WTA doubles rankings, got off to a flying start on Sunday night, and Gauff served for the first set at 5-4.
But a double fault by Gauff handed Canada’s Dabrowski and New Zealand’s Routliffe their first break point of the day, which they converted to level the set at 5-5.
Pegula saved three consecutive break points to hold for 6-5, but Routliffe countered by holding to set up the tiebreak. Routliffe’s pinpoint net play held sway in the breaker, where she and Dabrowski won the last four points in a row.
Dabrowski and Routliffe built a dominant 5-1 lead in the second set, but Gauff and Pegula charged back, reaching 5-3 and holding three break points on Routliffe's serve. Nevertheless, Dabrowski and Routliffe held on to clinch the win, finishing the clash with a winning Dabrowski backhand.
Earlier on Sunday, No.3 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara got the WTA Finals underway by defeating No.5 seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs 7-5, 6-2.
In the opening match of the 2023 season-ending championships, it was the all-Japanese pair who prevailed in 1 hour and 36 minutes. Aoyama and Shibahara saved 10 of 12 break points in the doubles showdown.
Aoyama and Shibahara begin the round-robin with an early 1-0 lead in the Maya Ka'an Group, while Krawczyk and Schuurs start 0-1. Also in the Maya Ka'an Group are No.2 seeds Storm Hunter and Elise Mertens and No.8 seeds Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez.
A powerful Shibahara return gave her squad an early 3-1 lead in Sunday's clash, but a pair of Schuurs volley winners pulled her and Krawczyk back on serve at 5-5. However, Aoyama and Shibahara reached set point on Schuurs's serve at 6-5, which they converted with a winning volley by Aoyama.
Deep returns by the Japanese duo, some landing square on the baseline, brought them to a 4-1 advantage in the second set. At 5-2, the pair broke serve again, with a deft Shibahara crosscourt winner wrapping up the victory.
Aoyama and Shibahara now have a 2-1 lead in their head-to-head with American Krawczyk and Schuurs of the Netherlands, with all three meetings coming this year. Aoyama and Shibahara also defeated Krawczyk and Schuurs in the WTA 1000 Montreal final this summer.