Contenders for medals in the women’s doubles were decided on Wednesday when top seeds Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova edged past Ash Barty & Storm Sanders, 4-6 6-4 [10-7], in am impressive comeback.
You never quite have their measure. We were able to create one game of opportunity, and we took that and were able to get a break of serve. In the second we had two games where we had some good looks, but they played some really good stuff on break points. A couple of points here and there, and it’s a different result. Ash Barty
Hopes of an Olympic medal for Barty, the World No 1 in singles, now rest on her mixed doubles campaign with John Peers.
Barty & Sanders of Team Australia, who were seeded 6th in the doubles, looked to be on track for the final four against the Czech pair, but they were unable to capitalise on a handful of opportunities on the top seeds’ serve in the second set, Barty eventually losing her serve to concede the set.
More errors early in the match tiebreak saw them trailing 8-4, before they rallied to 8-7 in one last push.
“You never quite have their measure,” Barty said. “We were able to create one game of opportunity, and we took that and were able to get a break of serve.
“In the second we had two games where we had some good looks, but they played some really good stuff on break points.
“A couple of points here and there, and it’s a different result.”
Krejcikova & Siniakova, who are both 25, are among the world’s top-ranked doubles players, at No 2 and 3 respectively, and have won 3 Grand Slam doubles titles together, including at Roland Garros this year.
The Czech pair entered the match with a season win-loss record of 26-7 and have a long history of competing together too, having claimed 3 consecutive Grand Slam girls’ doubles titles as a team in 2013.
Although Sanders & Barty are childhood friends as well, this is only the second time they have paired up during their professional careers, with their only previous tournament together at ITF level in June 2016, where they made a grass-court semi-final at Eastbourne.
Yet it was the less-experienced Australians who took control of the match early, racing to a 4-1 lead and securing the opening set in 24 minutes.
The second set was tighter, with the Czechs proving why they are the top-seeded team.
They secured the only break in the 10th game, winning Barty’s serve to level the match at one-set apiece and then built an 8-4 lead in the deciding match tiebreak, despite the best efforts of the Australians to keep their medal hopes alive, closing out victory after 79 minutes on court.
Krejcikova & Siniakova meet Veronica Kudermetova & Elena Vesnina in the semi-finals after the Russian pair easily found their way past Liudmyla Kichenok & Nadia Kichenok from the Ukraine, 6-2 6-1.
Meanwhile, Barty’s busy program continued later on Wednesday in an opening-round mixed doubles match with another close friend in John Peers.
The pair have good history, enjoying quarter-final runs at Wimbledon in 2013 and in the 2014 US Open, which was the last time they played together.
“Give me five minutes, and I’ll be excited and ready to go,” she said of the quick turnaround. “I’m excited to play with John, we played years and years ago and our families are super close.
“I lived with the Peers family when I came back into the sport in 2016. For Johnny and I this is a really, really special moment to make Mama Peers proud.”
A win would have meant Barty & Sanders played for bronze at worst but, instead, it was left to 5-time Games veteran Samantha Stosur & Ellen Perez to fly the Australian flag in the doubles.
Stosur & Perez took on the Swiss team of Belinda Bencic & Viktorija Golubic in their quarter-final later on Wednesday, but they also went down in straight sets, 6-4 6-4.
For Bencic, who also made the semi-finals of the singles on Wednesday, it was a highly successful day, but one of disappointment for Australia.
Bencic & Golubic will face surprise semi-finalists from Brazil Laura Pigossi & Luise Stefani, who upset the 4th-seed American pair, Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Jessica Pegula, 3-6 6-3 [10-6].
Pigossi & Stefani also took out the Czech pair of Karolina Pliskova & Marketa Vondrousova on Tuesday, 2-6 6-4 [13-11].
For Garbiñe Muguruza, who was one of the favourites for singles gold but faltered in her quarter-final on Wednesday, it was a double Tokyo 2020 disappointment as she and partner Carla Suarez Navarro fell to Bencic & Golubic in the second round of the women’s doubles.
The Spaniards were visibly emotional afterwards, with Muguruza particularly distraught for Suarez Navarro, with whom she had dreamed of a golden end to the 32-year-old’s farewell season following her recovery from early-stage Hodgkin lymphoma.
“You know it’s not easy,” admitted Muguruza. “You have to play singles and doubles, plus there’s the Olympic spirit, which is very nice and exciting, but it also takes a lot of energy.
“You’ve got to economise, and be focused in my game, but so far I feel very happy to be here.”
The Spaniard, like so many, must dream of another chance in three years time in Paris.