In their first tournament playing together, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka & Beatriz Haddad from Brazil landed the Mutua Madrid Open doubles title on Sunday after upsetting the No 1 seeds Coco Gauff & Jessica Pegula from the USA, 6-1 6-4.
The win capped off a stellar week for the unseeded pair, who toppled two of the Top 3 seeds to win their first trophy together, but the presentation ceremony was marred by the tournament organisers stopped the players from speaking in the customary manner.
Later, the players said they had not been told why they were not allowed to make a speech, with Gauff writing on Twitter that she ‘wasn’t given a chance to speak’, while Pegula added a ‘lips zipped’ emoji to the tweet, and Azarenka said it had been ‘hard to explain’ to her young son why she wasn’t able to say hello to him after the match.
Meanwhile, last year’s singles champion, Ons Jabeur, said it was ‘unacceptable’ that the women’s doubles finalists were not given the same opportunity to speak as their male counterparts.
“So unfortunate that you were not given a chance to address the crowd and your opponents,” she wrote on social media. “This is sad and unacceptable.”
Australian former doubles World No 1 Rennae Stubbs stated that it was a ‘disgrace’ that the players weren’t given an opportunity to speak, adding that Tournament Director Feliciano Lopez owed both players and fans an explanation.
The tournament in Madrid has experienced several controversies this year, ranging from the scheduling that saw several matches finishing well after midnight, the differing sizes of birthday cakes presented to players, and the replacement of the ball-kids with female models, outfitted in noticeably skimpy attire.
On Saturday, World No 1 Iga Swiatek was quick to congratulate Aryna Sabalenka on winning the title but took a well-aimed swipe at the scheduling, after 2 of her 6 matches finished past 1am local time.
“It’s not fun to play at 1am though,” she said. “I’m happy anyway I was able to get past this experience and survive and be in the final.”
Lopez was standing right behind the 21-year old Pole when she made the comment, with fans pointing out that he clearly looked unhappy.
Interestingly, the female models were clad in more traditional attire for the men’s final on Sunday after fans have called for the return of ball-kids as the use of models is outdated.
The doubles final proved to be an interesting match, as Gauff & Pegula were prevented from playing their best by the scratch team of Azarenka & Haddad Maia, who raced away to pocket the opening set, dropping just 2 points on serve in the process.
In their team debut in Madrid, Azarenka & Haddad Maia had ousted Desirae Krawczyk & Demis Schuurs, the No 2 seeds and Stuttgart champions, in their opener, and then went on to defeat Paula Badosa & Bethanie Mattek Sands and Leylah Fernandez & Taylor Townsend on their way to the final.
Although the Americans bounced back to lead 4-2 in the second, Azarenka & Haddad Maia roared back to win the last 4 games of the match, and, after breaking Pegula’s serve to level the set at 4-4, the eventual champions closed out the win by dominating play at the net and breaking Gauff’s serve in the final game after 67 minutes of play.
The Americans were bidding to win their 3rd title of the season after Doha and Miami, but they offered up 14 break chances on their service games, which proved their downfall on this occasion, while they only able to create two opportunities to break of their own.
The title is Azarenka’s 10th doubles title, and 5th at the WTA 1000 level, while it is also her biggest win on the doubles court since teaming up with Ash Barty to win Rome in 2019.
Madrid is Haddad Maia’s 5th career doubles title, and the biggest title of her career, the Brazilian having previously been a two-time runner-up at the WTA 1000 level, including at Indian Wells this spring with Laura Siegemund from Germany.