MELBOURNE, Australia - No.5 seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic are through to the Australian Open doubles final after grinding past Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai, 6-4, 6-2.
Babos and Mladenovic were regular doubles partners up until a few years ago and have plenty of experience as a duo; together they reached the 2014 Wimbledon doubles final and captured titles at Dubai, Marrakech and Rome in 2015.
The Australian Open is their first tournament together in several years, and they’ve capped off their reunion in the best way possible - with a run to the final.
“I’m just really happy to play again with Kiki,” Babos said in their on-court interview. “We understand each other so well on court, and we complement each other a lot as well. Some days maybe I’m weaker, or she is, but together we’re just a great team. I’m just happy to play with her.”
Mladenovic added, “In our first tournament after some time, a Grand Slam final. I think everybody is aiming and dreaming to achieve that. Hopefully we can go one step further.”
Babos and Mladenovic looked well on their way in their match against Hsieh and Peng, getting off to a dominant 5-1 lead with a double break in the opening set. Hsieh and Peng did well to work their way back into the match, and steadily cut into their advantage, even while fighting off two set points in two games. The pair even even held points to make it 5-5 but - with help from a huge performance at the net from Mladenovic - Babos was able to serve it out.
The No.5 seeds were likely feeling a sense of deja vu in the second set as they once again grabbed a double break and 5-1 lead, but found the Chinese-Taiwanese duo once again began making their comeback.
Hsieh saved three match points before finally wrestling out the hold, but the pair couldn’t replicate their first set near-heroics. Babos once again served out the final game, and weaved a booming forehand down the middle of the court to take the match.
Standing between them and their first Grand Slam title as a pair are the No.2 seeds Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, the all-Russian duo who are looking to complete their trophy cabinet and capture the Career Slam in Melbourne.
Makarova and Vesnina needed one hour and twenty-five minutes to see off Irina-Camelia Begu and Monica Niculescu, 6-4, 6-3.
The Russians were finalists here back in 2014 when they led Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the third set, 5-2, only to fall in pursuit of their first title Down Under. They later went on to win the US Open that season and claimed the Wimbledon title in 2017 to go along with a 2013 title at Roland Garros.
They’ve also added an Olympic gold medal and a WTA Finals crown to their extensive team resume along the way, but the illusive Australian Open remains the only title the pair haven’t won.