No 2 seeds Timea Babos & Kristina Mladenovic edged No14 seeds Alexa Guarachi & Desirae Krawczyk in straight sets to retain their doubles title at the French Open on Sunday, the first women’s team to successfully do so since 2009.
Basically I was isolated for two weeks, 10 days exactly in the room [in New York]. I couldn't do anything... I cannot tell you how bad my preparation was... To lift here the trophy, it's always special, but this time you cannot imagine, like, what relief and what pride it is to actually, even for me personally, to leave this tournament with such a reward that I cannot -- I still have to, like, wake up and believe it's actually true. Kristina 'Kiki' Mladenovic
Babos & Mladenovic also captured the Australian Open title in Melbourne but, after a first-round victory at the US Open, the pair were withdrawn from the tournament in line with the event’s COVID-19 protocols after Mladenovic had been contact-traced to her compatriot Benoit Paire, who had tested positive, and was forced to spend 10 days inside her New York hotel room.
“I’m really, really happy after US Open to take the title here. It’s somehow very, very special,” Babos said after the match. “I always say it’s special, but this, it’s different. It’s like a weird feeling. It’s even hard to describe.
“I think we need again a little bit of time to really understand, like, what happened and I guess we’re going to have time again as we don’t have tournaments. So voila! It’s a good way to finish, I guess.”
For Mladenovic, it was redemption, the perfect ending to one of the most difficult periods of her career.
Mladenovic & Babos beat first-time Grand Slam finalists Guarachi of Chile and America’s Krawczyk, 6-4 7-5, in an hour and 33 minutes, capturing their 4th major together as a team, while it was Mladenovic’s 5th Grand Slam title.
In a long, emotional on-court speech, Mladenovic thanked Babos for helping her through it all and speaking in her press conference later, she explained what it meant to her to win the title after such a difficult time.
“Basically I was isolated for two weeks, 10 days exactly in the room,” she said. “I couldn’t do anything. But it’s overall two weeks, because it started the day before the tournament started. And it affected me so much mentally but also physically.
“Especially when you’re French and when you love as much as me competing in Roland-Garros, and when this thing happened to you like two weeks before Roland-Garros, I cannot tell you how bad my preparation was, even though we tried everything to be ready.
“But my body was not following. Of course, mentally [it] was tough. I had also a tough outcome in my first-round singles [at Roland-Garros].
“I was on the edge. I wanted to be great on court for my partner, because we deserved it after what happened to us in US Open. We couldn’t compete.
“To lift here the trophy…it’s always special, but this time you cannot imagine, like, what relief and what pride it is to actually, even for me personally, to leave this tournament with such a reward that I cannot — I still have to, like, wake up and believe it’s actually true.”
The victory ties Mladenovic with Gail Chanfreau for the second-most Roland Garros doubles titles by a French player, man or woman, in the Open Era behind 4 for Francoise Durr.
In addition, three French Open doubles titles also ranks the 27-year-old in a tie with Chanfreau and Jana Novotna.
“I rarely saw myself being that exhausted mentally and physically, especially on the Grand Slam final today, and [Babos] played a big part of our win today,” Mladenovic said. “I gave it everything the last two weeks during the rest of our matches.”
The match itself was tight, with Babos & Mladenovic taking the first set thanks to 2 breaks to 1, before the second became a nervy affair, with 6 breaks of serve in a row before Mladenovic, fittingly, fired a forehand down-the-line to hold serve and clinch victory.
“It’s definitely a relief,” Babos said. “I’m always honest. I think this was the worst match we played in a very long time.
“To win it at the end, it just shows how much we were struggling for the last couple weeks, let’s say.
“We had very, very rough September, especially Kiki, but obviously it affected me.
“I mean, I care for her and our friendship, not only the tennis. This is just tennis. OK, we were disqualified. It’s unfair. But for what was happening behind it was tough for me also to see.
“Then we were coming here obviously always with high expectations, but at the end with a little bit lower ones, because we really didn’t know how we can manage.
“Also, staying in the bubble, it’s really not easy. This is my 23rd day in the same hotel room, guys. It’s depressing.”
The No 2 seeds were pushed all the way by the Cinderella story of the doubles event, as the American and Chilean bid for a 3rd victory over a higher-seeded team in their tournament campaign, having beaten top seeds Hsieh Su-wei & Barbora Strycova, and No 7 seeds Shuko Aoyama & Ena Shibahara.
Needing 5 set points to capture the opening set, Babos & Mladenovic were also up a break 3 separate times in the second before ultimately closing it out after breaking a 4th time.
For Guarachi and Krawczyk, their first Grand Slam final may not have gone the way they had hoped, but they will now climb up the rankings after the best fortnight of their careers.
“Thanks to Desirae for being my rock these past eight weeks,” Guarachi said. “I’m so excited for what the future holds for us.”
There was also a repeat in men’s doubles as Kevin Krawietz & Andreas Mies defended their Roland-Garros silverware with success over Bruno Soares & Mate Pavic on Saturday.