MELBOURNE, Australia -- Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Croatia’s Mate Pavic pulled off a stunning comeback in the mixed doubles title match on Sunday, rebounding from one set down and winning an extremely tense match tiebreak to become Australian Open champions.
The No.8 seeds defeated 5th-seeded Timea Babos of Hungary and India’s Rohan Bopanna, 2-6, 6-4, [11-9]. This is the second Grand Slam title for Dabrowski, who became the first Canadian woman to claim a Grand Slam title last year at Roland Garros -- partnering none other than one of her opponents today, Bopanna, to win the mixed doubles there.
"This is really cool!" Dabrowski exclaimed, during the trophy presentation. "I know Australia loves doubles, so thank you for that," she continued. Dabrowski also dedicated the title to recently retired Australian player Jarmila Gajdosova, winner of the same title in 2013 with compatriot Matthew Ebden.
The title also completes a dream fortnight for Pavic, who claimed the men’s doubles title on Saturday night with Austrian Oliver Marach. Pavic has a previous mixed doubles Grand Slam title as well, having won the 2016 US Open with Laura Siegemund.
Despite having a one-set lead and staging a comeback of their own in the match tiebreak, including holding one championship point, Babos and Bopanna could not pull off the victory. Therefore, Babos was unable to complete her own "doubles double" in Melbourne, after winning the women's doubles on Friday with Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic.
It looked for all the world that Babos and Bopanna would emerge victorious after the first set. Bopanna rarely lost a point on serve in the opening frame, and Babos was often winning points with aggressive overheads, often directed at the feet of Pavic.
By contrast, Pavic looked a step slow after his late-night men's doubles title match. Meanwhile, Dabrowski could not get her serve to be effective in the first set -- she was the only player to be broken in the set, and was broken for a second time at 5-2, when Babos punished a slow second serve with a backhand crosscourt winner on deciding point, which doubled as set point.
Slowly, however, the Canadian/Croatian tandem found their footing. In the second set, Dabrowski finally held for 2-2 behind solid serves and powerful closing volleys from Pavic. After Pavic held with an ace for 3-3, he and Dabrowski broke their opponents' serve for the first time, overcoming the Babos delivery with another successful volley by the Croatian.
Bopanna was able to fend off a deciding point on his serve to hold for 5-4, but another quick service game by Pavic closed out the set 6-4, and sent the tilt into a decisive match tiebreak. Pavic won 12 of 13 points on serve in the second set, and he and Dabrowski had the momentum going into the final stages.
Bopanna faltered on the first point of the match tiebreak, giving Dabrowski and Pavic an immediate mini-break. Another miscue by Bopanna, this time off the forehand, put Dabrowski and Pavic up 5-2. But Pavic dropped both of his points on serve at 6-3, putting the match tiebreak back on serve. Once Dabrowski returned a Babos serve well wide and long, it was deadlocked at 6-6.
Serving at 8-8, Bopanna cracked a forehand winner down the line, giving them a 9-8 lead, and forcing Pavic to stare down a championship point on his serve. But Pavic came through when it mattered, hitting two consecutive aces. Suddenly, he and Dabrowski led 10-9 and had a championship point of their own.
On the next point, Babos served to Dabrowski, and the Canadian became the heroine of the piece by crushing a forehand service return which whizzed past Babos for a winner, giving Dabrowski and Pavic a remarkable victory in a match that easily could have gone either way.
Dabrowski thanked some of her coaches during the trophy presentation, saying "without them, I don’t think I could have hit that last forehand winner!"
More to follow...