CINCINNATI, OH, USA - Lucie Hradecka and Ekaterina Makarova are two of the Tour's most accomplished doubles players - coming into the Western & Southern Open this week, the pair had racked up 34 titles between them - and on Saturday their storied careers triumphed together for the first time, the No.7 seeds taking the Cincinnati title with a 6-2, 7-5 final defeat of No.6 seeds Elise Mertens and Demi Schuurs.
Hradecka and Makarova had only partnered each other once before - seven years ago in Luxembourg, where they reached the 2011 final before losing to Iveta Benesova and Barbora Strycova. This result marks the Russian's second title of the year, but first alongside a player other than regular partner Elena Vesnina - currently sidelined due to injury - since she won Fès 2009 with Alisa Kleybanova. Hradecka, meanwhile, snaps a title drought stretching back to 2016; her previous most recent trophy came in Moscow that year alongside Andrea Sestini Hlavackova.
The Russo-Czech duo dominated the first set, breaking Mertens and Schuurs three times en route to wrapping it up in just 25 minutes. But the Belgian-Dutch team have been in stellar form in 2018 - particularly Schuurs, fresh off the Montreal title with Ashleigh Barty and competing in her eighth final of the year - and they struck back to take a 4-2 lead in the second set.
Hradecka and Makarova have been clutch all week, though, having won match tiebreaks against both Johanna Konta and Jelena Ostapenko in the second round and No.2 seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic in the quarterfinals, and they steadily eroded their opponents' lead to win five of the last six games of the match.
"It was a very tough match today and our opponents played a great game," said Makarova afterwards. "I want to thank my team, my coach, my physio - we've had a great week and look forward to the future."
The 30-year-old was also satisfied with a measure of revenge, having lost the Montreal final last week to Barty and Schuurs. "Demi got the better of me last week but this time it's nice to be on the winning side," she laughed.
Hradecka, meanwhile, was simply happy to be playing again after a knee injury kept the 33-year-old out for the first half of this year. "It's an unbelievable feeling to be back on court, and I want to thank Ekaterina for partnering me this week," she smiled.