The doubles finalists at the Akron WTA Finals were determined on Tuesday, with top seeds Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova lining up to face Hsieh Su-Wei & Elise Mertens, the No 3 seeds, on Wednesday to play for the Martina Navratilova Trophy.
I have to say big credit to Niki and Demi, they've been playing well during the whole season and, today, the match was really difficult, really tough. I'm really happy we got through, but I would like to congratulate them on an amazing season. Elise Mertens
Krejcikova & Siniakova booked their second championship berth with a tight 3-6 6-3 [10-5] win over the 4th seeds, Nicole Melichar-Martinez & Demi Schuurs, while Hsieh & Mertens had an easier passage beating 2nd seeds Shuko Aoyama & Ena Shibahara, 6-2 6-2.
In addition to raising the trophy, the doubles final also will determine the year-end No 1 ranking between the current No 1 Hsieh and No 2 Siniakova.
In the first semi-final of the day, Krejcikova & Siniakova found tough opposition in Melichar-Martinez & Schuurs, who hail from the USA and the Netherlands respectively and pulled away in the opening set by going 3 for 3 on deciding points, breaking the Czechs on their only break point chance of the set.
“I think we needed to improve our overall game, we needed to be more aggressive,” Siniakova said. “I think it worked.
“We made a lot of mistakes at the beginning but we kept fighting.”
Krejcikova & Siniakova righted the ship in the second, improving their first serve percentages from just 43% in the first set to 71% in the next.
While break points may have been at a premium in the opener, the teams combined for 10 of them in the second, and it was Krejcikova & Siniakova who earned their first as they raced out to a 3-0 lead.
Melichar-Martinez & Schuurs broke back at 3-4, but the Czechs were undeterred, and they broke again before serving out the set to love to force a match tiebreak.
Now with the momentum with them, Krejcikova & Siniakova broke open the breaker with a 5-1 lead and closed out the win after 1 hour 29 minutes.
“I have to say big credit to Niki and Demi, they’ve been playing well during the whole season and, today, the match was really difficult, really tough,” Krejcikova said. “I’m really happy we got through, but I would like to congratulate them on an amazing season.”
Playing in their 3rd WTA Finals and 2nd as the top seeds, Krecjikova & Siniakova are bidding to cap off a phenomenal season that saw them capture Olympic gold, Madrid, and their 3rd major title at Roland Garros.
The Czechs now are looking to go one better than their first foray at the WTA Finals in 2018, when they finished as runners-up to Timea Babos & Kristina Mladenovic.
Playing in their first WTA Finals as a team, Melichar-Martinez & Schuurs came through the El Tajín group with a 2-1 record, recording wins over 5th seeds Sam Stosur & Shuai Zhang and 7th seeds Darija Jurak & Andreja Klepac.
The Czech top seeds are the only team at this year’s WTA Finals to maintain an undefeated record throughout group play and Krejcikova beamed at the thought of getting her hands on the WTA Finals Martina Navratilova Trophy on Wednesday.
“We all love Martina back home and we really appreciate what she did for tennis and what a big player she is,” Krejcikova said. “I’m so happy we have the same language and we can talk together.
“She gives us really good tips. Let’s believe tomorrow will be our day and we’ll get the trophy.”
First though, Krejcikova & Siniakova, the reigning Roland Garros champions, must get themselves past the current Wimbledon champions, Hsieh & Mertens, who they faced off against in group play for the first time, with the Czechs dominating in a 6-3 6-1 win earlier this week.
In the second semi-final, played under the lights, the Chinese Taipei-Belgian pair posted their most convincing win of the week by seeing off Aoyama & Shibahara from Japan for the 3rd time this season in only 67 minutes.
Hsieh & Mertens were particularly sharp in backing up each other’s deliveries with finishing volleys, and their only brief lapse came at the start of the second set when the Belgian dropped her serve.
On return, they were equally adept at targeting the Aoyama serve, capturing it 3 times in total.
Aoyama’s scampering led to a scattering of highlights for the Japanese cause, but it was not enough to dent the Hsieh & Mertens momentum as the Chinese Taipei-Belgian pair raced into their first title match at the WTA Finals together.
It will be Hsieh’s 4th appearance in the final, having previously been champion in 2013 with Peng Shuai, and runner-up in 2014 (also with Peng) and 2019 (with Barbora Strycova), but Mertens will be playing for the WTA Finals title for the first time.