LONDON, UK - No.1 seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic kept their quest for the Channel double alive, coming from a set down to quell No.7 seeds Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke 2-6, 6-2, 9-7 in a Wimbledon quarterfinal thriller.
The Roland Garros champions extended their winning streak to 13 consecutive victories dating back to their Istanbul title in April, but for the second time in The Championships this year were forced into a decider. The tight contest fit into the pattern of their previous encounters with the Czech-American duo: though Babos and Mladenovic now lead the head-to-head 3-1, the past three have all gone the distance.
The Franco-Hungarian pair were slow to settle, though - particularly Mladenovic, who replaced her racquet after just three service points, two of which were double faults. Those would lead to a first service break for Melichar and Peschke; strong serving and smart volleying, particularly from the latter, would see them dominate the remainder of the set, breaking Mladenovic again in the final game as the 26-year-old continued to find the net off the ground.
Having found the Peschke serve impregnable in the first set, the top seeds' opportunity to turn the match around would come courtesy of the Czech veteran in the third game of the second set. A double fault - her only one of the match - let Babos and Mladenovic into the game from 30-0 up, and on break point a net cord bounced a Babos backhand over Melichar at net.
Thereafter, the two-time Grand Slam victors elevated their level to take control. Swarming the net with relish, Mladenovic made up for her first-set flatness by nailing both delicate droppers and powerful drive volleys. With Melichar conceding the double break thanks to a double fault and errant forehands, Mladenovic went on to level the match with a strong service game.
An epic Melichar service game at the very start of the decider swung fortunes even further towards the two-time WTA Finals champions. Though Peschke - the only player on court who has previously lifted the Wimbledon doubles trophy, having won the title in 2011 alongside Katarina Srebotnik - largely impressed with her skill and composure at net, after six deuces it was the 44-year-old who ultimately missed a volley on the fifth break point of the game.
Exhorting themselves vocally and exuding positive energy, Babos and Mladenovic asserted their authority to pull away towards the finishing line. But in the eighth game, the wobbles returned to Mladenovic's game - and, sensing opportunity, last year's finalists converted their fourth break point on a Peschke backhand pass to level.
This set the scene for a thrillingly close climax in which both teams brought out their finest tennis of the day. As the match headed into overtime, the Court 2 crowd were treated to a number of breathtaking all-court points and bold moves.
Leading 7-6, Melichar and Peschke twice came within two points of victory - but the Babos serve would prove impermeable, with the Hungarian not broken at any point in the match. Having bailed herself out of danger, it was Babos who struck immediately on the Peschke serve, a sharp forehand cross and a blistering backhand down the line sealing the crucial break. Serving for the match after two hours and five minutes, Mladenovic gathered herself for a strong service game to close out the win on her third match point, powering a forehand through the middle of the court on the final rally.