Timea Babos & Kristina Mladenovic became the first of the 2020 Australian Open champions when they lifted the women’s doubles trophy together on Friday after defeating Hsieh Su-Wei & Barbora Strycova in a 6-2 6-1 trouncing in the final.
We had great memories from last time we played them, that's for sure. That was the final of the Masters in Shenzhen. We really controlled that match, played very well. Same as today. We had a plan which we really wanted to stick to... I think it's just amazing the way we're working together, and how we handled the situations together. Time Babos
Under a closed Rod Laver Arena roof, the Franco-Hungarian pair clinched their 3rd Grand Slam doubles title together, having also triumphed in Melbourne in 2018 and at Roland-Garros last year.
In a repeat of the season-ending WTA Finals, the No 2 seeds’ heavy shot-making proved too much for the top-seeded pair.
It marked their 3rd straight final together at Melbourne Park, following a defeat to Samantha Stosur & Zhang Shuai in last year’s title match.
“I think we’re just handling it better and better each time we go on court for such a special moment, for these special matches,” Babos said.
“We had great memories from last time we played them, that’s for sure. That was the final of the Masters in Shenzhen.
“We really controlled that match, played very well. Same as today. We had a plan which we really wanted to stick to.
“They tried technically everything. They really tried to make us plus worse. They stepped up their game I think compared to the last match.
“I really think it was a lot tougher one. I think it’s just amazing the way we’re working together and how we handled the situations together.”
Hsieh & Strycova had beaten the No 2 seeds in the semi-finals on their way to a maiden Wimbledon title as a team last year but, on Friday, they were no match for their familiar foes.
After trading early breaks in the opener for 2-2, Babos & Mladenovic hardly looked back and the Frenchwoman served for the set at 5-2.
She missed a swinging forehand volley on her first chance before seizing the advantage when Strycova pushed wide.
After winning 4 straight games to take a one-set lead, there was a scream from Babos as the duo broke early in the second set and, from there, they never surrendered their grip on the match as they raced to 5-1 in the second set.
Although the top seeds had held Hsieh’s serve to open the second set, Babos & Mladenovic’s momentum was never slowed, as they broke Strycova on their 4th opportunity in a lengthy 3rd game.
Babos crushed a forehand winner to bring up 2 match points and Mladenovic followed suit, thumping a backhand down the line to seal the deal after 72 minutes.
The French and Hungarian duo ultimately won 10 of the final 11 games of the match to return to the winners’ circle, having won the title in Melbourne in 2018 and finished as runners-up last year.
The former World No 1s did not lose a set in the tournament, and broke serve 6 times by winning nearly 60 percent of the points on return in the final.
“I think the way we match together, it’s really tough to beat. Not only the connection we have tennis-wise, because I think our game really fit well, the emotional connection wouldn’t be enough,” Babos continued.
“At the end it turned out pretty solid because we went all the way without dropping a set. That actually never happened to us. That’s also something new.”
The 33-year-old Strycova, who had earlier indicated this would likely be her final year on tour, recalled a near two-decade run playing at Melbourne Park.
“It has been 18 years ago when I was standing on, I think, Court No 7 when I was playing junior finals and here I am still,” she said.
“I really love coming here to Australia, you are one of the most amazing countries for me and you guys are so incredible and for me something really special.”
Mladenovic addressed their opponents: “I want to congratulate you girls for this tournament, you had an amazing run.
“I would like to thank the most important person on the court, Timea, my doubles partner, but she is way more than that … without her probably I wouldn’t be standing here today.
“I really love Australia. Maybe some of you hate me because … we won Fed Cup here a couple of months ago. We love playing here, I love coming back playing in front of you.”
The 2020 Australian Open trophy now joins both the 2018 crown, and the trophy from the 2019 French Open, on Babos & Mladenovic’s mantle.
The Frenchwoman also owns a pair of Slams in mixed doubles, and the 2016 French Open title with Caroline Garcia.
“We both lost pretty early in the tournament in singles,” added Mladenovic. “It’s tough because we are competitors. We wanted to do better.
“It’s not always easy to kind of stick around and keep working and believing. It’s the beginning of the season, so you expect much of yourself.
“It makes it just so much easier to have your best friend by your side because you can fulfil those long days of work that a best friend or family around, I’m very grateful.”
Despite the defeat, Hsieh is set to return to the top of the WTA doubles rankings following the Australian Open, overtaking her partner for her second career stint as World No 1.