The first champions of the 2019 US Open to be crowned were in action on Friday, as the top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal & Robert Farah took aim at their second straight Grand Slam title against challengers Marcel Granollers & Horacio Zeballos, the No 3 seeds, in the men’s doubles final.
"We're living a dream. It was really difficult times two weeks ago. We made a decision to fight for it, to play for him and we honour him right now Sebastian Cabal
The Colombian pairing of Cabal & Farah made further history when they overcame Spaniard Granollers and Zeballos from Argentina to lift the trophy, 6-4 7-5.
After Farah captured the men’s doubles title with partner Cabal at Wimbledon in July, defeating Nicolas Mahut & Edouard Roger-Vasselin in a physical, crackling nail-biter of a contest, 6-7 7-6 7-6 6-7 6-3, he flew to Bogota in his native Colombia and was immediately swarmed as he walked off the plane.
“I kept saying to the Colombian media, ‘I felt like Shakira for two hours,’ ” he recalled. “You come out and there are all these journalists, and everyone’s coming [up to you] and they’re chanting ‘Colombia, Colombia!’, and there’s a bunch of flags in the airport.
“Sebas [Cabal] arrived to Cali, Colombia, and there were basically 20,000 people there. They received him with a fire truck.
“They put him on top of the fire truck with the flags and there was a caravan that went into the city.”
They are just the 3rd twosome this century to win both majors in the same year, behind Mike Bryan & Jack Sock, who achieved the same feat twelve months ago, and Jonas Bjorkman & Todd Woodbridge, who did it in 2003; and they are the first-ever South American team to prevail in men’s doubles at the US Open in the Open era.
On the other side of the net, Zeballos & Granollers were aiming for their first major title.
Granollers reached two Slam finals in 2014 alongside fellow Spaniard Marc Lopez, finishing runner-up at both the French and US Opens, while Zeballos was in his first Grand Slam final.
They triumphed together at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, while Zeballos won a second Masters 1000 crown in 2019 alongside Nikola Mektic at Indian Wells in the spring.
Under the roof in Arthur Ashe Stadium, with a sea of raucous supporters in yellow Colombian soccer jerseys surrounding them in the stands, the reigning Wimbledon champions and No 1 seeds, Cabal & Farah, pulled off their straight sets win in what is turning out to be their best year on tour, making the semi-finals at Roland Garros in addition to their Wimbledon victory.
Granollers & Zeballos, who partnered up just this past summer at the Canadian Masters, maintained a perfect 10-0 record coming into Friday’s final, and, like the top seeds, had only dropped one set all tournament.
The early exchanges were crackling, featuring lengthy net rallies, incredible gets, and both teams working the geometry of the court to their advantage, but Cabal & Farah proved just that much steadier on serve.
In the first set, they created break point opportunities on both Granollers’ and Zeballos’ serves while never facing a single break point on their own.
At 4-4, with Zeballos serving, they finally converted and served it out to take a one-set lead.
Then, as the second unfolded, drama began to set in.
Cabal & Farah again had the easier time holding serve, and they created 6 break point opportunities through the first 5 games, but failing to convert any of them.
At 4-3, Farah double faulted to give Granollers & Zeballos their first break points of the entire match.
As Farah dumped a volley into the net, they converted on their first opportunity and, as it would later turn out, their only opportunity, to allow Zeballos to serve it out and even the score.
The Argentine, however, struggled to put a first serve in play, and the top seeds pounced, immediately breaking back.
Granollers & Zeballos had no answers after that, and managed to win just 3 more points in the match.
On championship point, Cabal put away a return that fell short in the court, and Farah collapsed to the ground.
As has become tradition after the Colombian duo wins, Cabal’s young son ran out onto the court to hug the winners and instantly charm the crowd.
The pair have now collected 5 men’s doubles trophies so far in 2019 and go into the Asian swing and the Australian Open as the men’s doubles team to beat.
After the triumph, however, Farah had other thoughts on his mind and, during the trophy ceremony, he spoke emotionally to the crowd about Roberto Cocheteux, one of the foremost supporters and sponsors of tennis in Colombia, who had passed away right before the tournament.
“We couldn’t go to his burial because we had to stay here,” Farah said, while Cabal choked back tears. “It was very tough for us, and so we said we would dedicate this tournament to him, and there’s no better way to dedicate [a tournament] than to win it.”
Added Cabal: “We’re living a dream. It was really difficult times two weeks ago. We made a decision to fight for it, to play for him and we honour him right now.
“We’re happy we can do this for him, and hopefully he is in the sky watching us.”
It was quite a clean doubles final from both teams. Cabal/Farah committed 32 winners to just 8 unforced errors, while Granollers/Zeballos combined to hit 23 winners to just 8 unforced errors.