The US Open women’s doubles came to an unlikely conclusion on Friday when the unseeded pair of Laura Siegemund & Vera Zvonareva hoisted the trophy aloft after playing their first tournament together, ever.
[It’s a] special two weeks for me because I've been away from the tour for a long time. I haven't played a lot of back-to-back matches, I would say, at the same tournament… I think one of the most important things is that I was enjoying my time on the court with Laura. She made me feel good on the court. She was very supportive. I think that helped us a lot to get through some tough matches. Vera Zvonareva
They defeated the No 3 seeds Nicole Melichar & Xu Yifan in straight sets, 6-4 6-4, to claim the women’s doubles title in an entertaining affair on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I think these moments like today, memories of these moments, they kind of keep you going,” said 36-year-old veteran Zvonareva, who came back to tour after giving birth to her daughter, Evelyn. “It’s special.
“It’s something that you worked so hard for. Then you’re able to lift that trophy. I think, yeah, this is one of the biggest reasons to continue playing.”
Both teams were relatively new partnerships, with Melichar & Xu playing together since the end of 2019, and this being the first tournament Siegemund & Zvonareva have played as a team.
“It’s not a random choice that we play with each other because we both feel like we can complement each other’s game,” Siegemund stated. “Then something that turns out during the journey through the two weeks is that you really, like, in our case, I really realised her game style is complementing me.
“But the communication has to be really spot on, the way you prepare for a match, how you do tactics, all that, it just fit really well,” Siegemund continued. “That’s something you that realise down the road.”
The 79-minute victory over the 3rd seeds in the final completed the run for the new champions, after they swept to victory by breaking their opponents’ serves 3 times and got 73 percent of their first serve points into play, winning nearly 80 percent of points when they did that.
It was the third upset of a seeded team Siegemund & Zvonareva executed during the fortnight, having knocked off No 7 seeds Victoria Azarenka & Sofa Kenin in the second round before a stunning win over No 2 seeds and defending champions Elise Mertens & Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals.
“We had a very slow start,” Zvonareva said. “In our first match, it was very difficult. We were careful. We didn’t know how it was going to go.
“We didn’t get a chance to practice together or prepare for doubles, because we’re both involved in singles and that is always the main focus.
“Then we passed the second round. I felt like [by] the third match we really started communicating well, we really started to understand each other. It just got better and better from there on.”
The first set initially appeared to be a blowout, but turned more dramatic toward the end.
Siegemund & Zvonareva got off to a quick start and, in the early stages of the match, they were dominating play, making improbable shots at the net and lobbing their opponents at will, reeling off 5 straight games at one point, and breaking both their opponents’ serves with strong returns, crafty lobs, and creative volleys.
Melichar and Xu didn’t see a single break point until the 8th game, which they converted as Siegemund, serving for the set, double-faulted.
The No 3 seeds saved 4 set points on Melichar’s next service game, which shifted momentum over to their side of the net.
Melichar then saved another set point on Zvonareva’s serve with an overhead, following a 20-shot rally in which every player had a moment to show off her doubles prowess.
The seeded team, however, could not save the next one, and Siegemund & Zvonareva took the lead in 41 minutes.
“I can play some really good doubles, [but] to be able to do that, I need the right partner who can help set me up from [the back of the court],” Siegemund said. “People keep telling me I was flying all over the court… I feel I was doing my job and going by my instincts.
“[But] I can only do that if there are certain opportunities for me, if that’s prepared for me. That’s what Vera did really well the whole time we were playing here.
“I was really happy that I got out of there [the starting] blocks so good. It’s always good to have a good start. It does set you up for the rest of the match.”
Siegemund & Zvonareva claimed what proved to be the critical break in the first game of the second set, as, once again, the German took charge at the net, pouncing on a volley to force an error from Xu on break point.
Solid serving by Melichar and pristine passes by Xu helped the No 3 seeds hold serve for the rest of the set, but they were never able to reach break point.
Once a volley winner by Zvonareva punctuated a love service hold for 5-3 by Siegemund, the first-time pairing were on the brink of keeping their undefeated team record alive.
While Melichar breezed to a hold for 5-4, putting the onus on Zvonareva to serve out the victory, the Russian was up to the task.
Siegemund & Zvonareva had a first-serve percentage of 68 percent as they eyed the finish line, winning a remarkable 85 percent of those points.
Zvonareva hit an ace on the first point as she served for the championship, and confidently raced to double championship point.
On the first one, a stellar serve by Zvonareva was returned barely wide by Melichar, and after a challenge confirmed that result, Siegemund & Zvonareva were celebrating a signature Grand Slam title.
After the victory, in celebration, Siegemund asked if she and Zvonareva were permitted to hug and the chair umpire allowed it.
“[It’s a] special two weeks for me because I’ve been away from the tour for a long time,” Zvonareva said, after lifting the trophy. “I haven’t played a lot of back-to-back matches, I would say, at the same tournament…
“I think one of the most important things is that I was enjoying my time on the court with Laura.
“She made me feel good on the court. She was very supportive. I think that helped us a lot to get through some tough matches.”
Zvonareva, after shoulder surgery and a tour hiatus in which she gave birth to a daughter, has now claimed her 2nd US Open women’s doubles title, alongside her 2006 title with Nathalie Dechy, and her 3rd Grand Slam women’s doubles title overall, having also captured the 2012 Australian Open women’s doubles championship.
“My daughter, of course, she does not understand, because…” laughed Zvonareva.”… it was my birthday a few days ago. When my husband told her, ‘Okay, say congratulations to Mommy,’ she said, ‘Mommy, happy birthday.’ I was like, it was 5 days ago, but it’s okay, I’ll take it. I’ll still take it.”
The Russian has also won 2 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles in her career, including the 2004 US Open partnered with Bob Bryan.
Siegemund notched her first-ever Grand Slam women’s doubles title, having previously won the 2016 US Open mixed doubles title alongside Mate Pavic, who won the 2020 US Open men’s doubles title on Thursday.