WIMBLEDON, Great Britain -- The 2018 Wimbledon Championships came to a close with Nicole Melichar of the United States and Alexander Peya of Austria claiming their first Grand Slam titles, as the No.11 seeds overcame Belarusian Victoria Azarenka and Great Britain's Jamie Murray, 7-6(1), 6-3, for the mixed doubles trophy.
"Can't really describe it," Melichar said, during her post-match press conference alongside Peya. "You dream about winning Wimbledon as a kid, then realize how difficult tennis actually is. It's a dream just to play here. But to win here, it's amazing."
"I grew up idolizing Boris Becker and his battles with Edberg and those guys," said Peya. "Wimbledon was always a cornerstone for me, playing in the garden with my brother. So to sit here now and be Wimbledon champion, it definitely feels amazing."
Melichar had also reached the women's doubles final this week partnering Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic, but fell to Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, while Peya had been a runner-up in the 2013 US Open men's doubles final and a previous Wimbledon mixed doubles final in 2015.
Now both Melichar and Peya can both call themselves Grand Slam champions after defeating Azarenka and Murray in just under an hour and a half. The victors won 83 percent of points on their serve, hit 10 winners to their opponents' six, and were never broken during the encounter.
"I think we're both just very positive," said Melichar. "We're laughing a lot. I joked with him before the tournament that mixed doubles is my happy place, so I call us Team Happy Place. We have fun out there, we support each other. We don't get upset with each other. We just give it our best."
Murray was unable to defend the title he won last year with Martina Hingis, as well as in 2007 with Jelena Jankovic, but the former ATP doubles World No.1 still has those titles as well as two majors in men's doubles.
Azarenka is also a two-time mixed doubles Grand Slam champion and the 2012 Olympic champion in mixed doubles, to go with her two Australian Open singles trophies and peak singles ranking of World No.1.
An incredibly close first set began with all four players holding serve routinely before the fireworks started. Murray and Azarenka had to fend off a combined three break points in their next two service games, while, by contrast, Melichar and Peya were holding serve easily, as the teams progressed to 4-4.
Azarenka was being aggressive on scintillating overheads and Melichar’s powerful serve was in full flight as the teams moved to 5-5, while the exceptional volleying skills of Peya kept his duo completely untroubled on serve, punching a winner at the net to hold Melichar’s serve for 6-6 and move the teams into the inevitable tiebreak.
Murray started the tiebreak with a wild volley unforced error, and it was downhill for him and Azarenka from there as Melichar and Peya dominated. A Peya return winner off of an Azarenka serve put them up 4-0, and after a rally at 5-1 ended with a backhand error by Azarenka, the American/Austrian pair held five set points.
Murray ended his disastrous tiebreak by double faulting on the first set point, handing Melichar and Peya a daunting one-set lead. Even discounting the tiebreak blowout, Melichar and Peya were by far the more commanding pair in the opening frame, winning a staggering 23 of 24 points on their first serves.
Murray was not able to recover his typically strong doubles form quickly enough in the second set. After clutch serving by Peya got the Austrian out of trouble in his first service game of the set, saving three break points with his powerful delivery, Murray faltered and dropped serve, due to some stunning groundstrokes by the rapidly improving Melichar.
The big-serving American held onto that momentum, as Peya backed up her stellar serves with more of his sound volleys to consolidate the break at love and take a 3-0 lead. Peya again fell behind on serve at 3-1, but a netted return by Azarenka erased a break point, and Melichar put away two consecutive volleys to take the game and stay ahead, 4-1.
Serving at 5-2, Azarenka faced a championship point on her serve, but Peya was over-excited and slammed a forehand return into the net. After Azarenka held, 38-year-old Peya then had to overcome the pressure of serving for his maiden major title in his long career, but he and Melichar were up to the task, closing out the game at love to hoist the Wimbledon trophies in the Royal Box.
"I felt like we served very well the first set," said Peya. "I think they hardly won points on our serve. Once we got the break, I felt pretty confident. Even though we had, like, one or two struggles on our serves in the second set, but that's to be expected over the course of two or three sets. But I think we managed well in our service games."
"I think we've played now seven mixed matches, including French Open -- [Nicole] hasn't gotten broken," said Peya. "Her serving and me at the net, it's a very good combination. Overall, we're having fun on the court. We're enjoying it. I think that reflects in our game."