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Russians race into first New York final

Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina of Russia battle Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic on Day 11 of the 2014 US Open.
By Elena Scuro
Thursday, September 4, 2014

WHAT HAPPENED: In a match chock full of entertaining rallies and lengthy games, No. 4 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina of Russia defeated unseeded Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic, 7-5, 6-3, to advance to the women’s doubles final.

A strong start for the unseeded team on a sunny Thursday in Louis Armstrong Stadium gave them a 1-0 lead as they immediately broke the serve of Makarova, 26, who is also a women’s singles semifinalist this year. Date-Krumm, 43, and Zahlavova Strycova, 28, later converted another break point for a 5-2 lead when Makarova sent a forehand volley long after a lengthy eight-minute game.  

Serving for the set, Date-Krumm and Zahlavova Strycova were unable to convert their first set point. The Russians then earned their first break-point opportunity of the match, which Date-Krumm saved with a forehand smash winner. Another set point came and went for Date-Krumm and Zahlavova Strycova, and the Russian team finally converted their second break point of the match to get one break back.

Still up a break, Zahlavova Strycova stepped to the line to serve for the set again for her team. The Russians got to triple break point on her serve and immediately broke when Date-Krumm sent a backhand volley long to get back on serve at 5-all. Serving at 5-6, a double fault from Date-Krumm gave Makarova and Vesnina two set points, and they converted their second to win the first set, 7-5, in 54 minutes.

The second game of the second set went 10-minutes long, as the Russian team finally broke Zahlavova Strycova’s serve on their seventh break-point opportunity of the game. Vesnina, 28, then held serve for a 3-0 lead, as it looked to be one-way traffic from the Russian team. With Date-Krumm serving, the Russians got another break-point chance and converted immediately to race to a 4-0 lead.

Date-Krumm and Zahlavova Strycova got one break back for 1-4 and held for 2-4. They got another break-point opportunity on Vesnina’s serve, but it was saved by a forehand-volley winner from Makarova, whose team then held for 5-2. On Date-Krumm’s serve, the Russians got to two match points, but both were saved by the unseeded team. Serving for the match, an ace from Makarova closed out the match in 1 hour, 46 minutes.

Vesnina, whose team had 34 winners during the match, said after, “We’re just happy now that we’re in the final. It’s a great feeling to play the final of a major.” Of her partner being in the women’s singles semifinals, as well, she said: “She’s on fire.”

“It’s just enjoying to go out there to have some fun,” Makarova added. “It’s a Grand Slam. Doesn’t matter – mixed, singles, doubles – it’s still finals of a Grand Slam.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Makarova and Vesnina will face the winner of the other women’s doubles semifinal between the unseeded Martina Hingis of Switzerland and Flavia Pennetta of Italy and No. 3 seeds Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Sania Mirza of India.

The Russians, who won the French Open women’s doubles title in 2013 and reached the women’s doubles final at the Australian Open earlier this year, had defeated Serena and Venus Williams in the quarterfinals en route to the final. They look to win their second Grand Slam title as a team, their first in New York.

THE QUESTION: Can the formidable Russians take the title here this year?