Wimbledon | One for Ukraine – Kichenok & Pavic win Mixed title

While Ukrainian Elina Svitolina’s bid to win the Wimbledon singles fell short on Thursday, her war-torn nation is celebrating a Grand Slam champion in Lyudmyla Kichenok and her partner Mate Pavic, who later won the mixed doubles title on the Centre Court.

I try to encourage the people in Ukraine and I hope this helps a little because they are fighting for their freedom. This feels amazing, I want to thank my partner for playing incredible in this two weeks. It feels amazing. I was enjoying a lot being on Centre Court today. Lyudmyla Kichenok

Ukraine’s Kichenok claimed her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, pairing with 6-time major champion Pavic from Croatia to defeat China’s Xu Yifan & Joran Vliegen from Belgium for the mixed doubles championships.

The first champions at 2023 Wimbledon were decided on Thursday, when 7th-seeded Kichenok & Pavic outlasted Xu & Vliegen, 6-4 6-7(9) 6-3 in a thrilling contest that lasted 2 hours and 7 minutes.

Xu & Vliegen, who were unseeded and had never spoken to each other before pairing up for the mixed, saved a championship point in the second-set tiebreak, and forced a third set.

Kichenok & Pavic regrouped in the final set to take the champions’ trophy under the closed roof of Centre Court.

Xu Yifan & Joran Vilegen had their chances in Mixed Doubles Final against Mate Pavic & Lyudmyla Kichenok but lost in 3 sets

© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

It is the first Grand Slam title of any type for 30-year-old Kichenok, a former Top 10 player in doubles who is currently ranked World No 15 and was playing in the first Grand Slam final of her career.

Former ATP Doubles World No 1 Pavic, also 30, now has 3 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles to go with his 3 Grand Slam men’s doubles titles.

His previous mixed doubles major titles came at the 2016 US Open with Laura Siegemund and the 2018 Australian Open with Gabriela Dabrowski.

“It feels amazing to be Wimbledon champion in mixed doubles,” Kichenok said in their post-match press conference. “I really enjoyed playing with Mate. He’s a great player. … It was really a great time for me the past ten days.

“We both are just working hard on our game every day. We both are trying to play aggressive. On grass it especially works really well. That’s the key. It worked for us this tournament.”

Both teams had saved match points on their way to the final, with Xu & Vliegen erased 3 in their 1st-round upset of defending champions Desirae Krawczyk & Neal Skupski, while Kichenok & Pavic fended off a match point in their 3-tiebreak 2nd-round win over Bernarda Pera & Nikola Mektic, Pavic’s men’s doubles partner.

In Thursday’s final, neither Kichenok nor Pavic dropped serve, but they were still pushed to the limit by Xu & Vliegen.

The Belgian saved a championship point at 8-7 in the second-set breaker with a sturdy overhead, before he and Xu converted their 4th set point to send the match into a decider.

Pavic & Kichenok took charge in the third set, though, breaking Xu’s service for a 5-3 lead behind a cluster of powerful Pavic forehands.

In the following game, a Kichenok volley winner set up their second championship point, and the Ukrainian converted that chance with one final overhead.

“I try to encourage the people in Ukraine and I hope this helps a little because they are fighting for their freedom,” Kichenok said to a huge ovation from the Centre Court crowd. “This feels amazing, I want to thank my partner for playing incredible in this two weeks.”

“It feels amazing. I was enjoying a lot being on Centre Court today,” she smiled.

Pavic described the ‘incredible feeling’, adding: “I played a few finals here. I lifted a trophy a few years ago; [this] is my first time in mixed. It’s always incredible to play here. It’s always a special story with Wimbledon.”

Vliegen & Yu, meanwhile, seem certain to revive their last-minute partnership.

Lyudmyla Kichenok (L) & Mate Pavic (2L) hold up their Mixed Doubles Trophies as Joran Vilegen (2R) & Xu Yifan (R) display their Runner's Up Trophies

© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Two-time defending Wimbledon mixed doubles champions Skupski & Krawczyk were among high-profile opponents the unseeded pair of Xu & Vliegen had defeated on the way to the final, and another big win had seemed possible when they saved a match point in the second set tiebreak.

With both teams competing at a sky-high level through the third set, it was clear the slightest dip would eventually influence the outcome.

The turning point came at last when Xu dropped serve in the 8th game, and Pavic was solid as he served for the match with Kichenov fittingly securing victory with an overhead.

Earlier in the week, love stories were flourishing at Wimbledon as tennis power couples prepared for action, with the romance between Stefanos Tsitsipas & Paula Badosa making the headlines before the Spaniard’s withdrawal because of a back injury, and British No 1 Katie Boulter playing with her Australian boyfriend Alex De Minaur, until Vliegen & Xy stopped them in the 2nd-round.



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