WHAT HAPPENED: It was a win in a practice set last year over No. 4 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina of Russia that prompted Martina Hingis to launch her doubles-only comeback last year, but the Russians prevailed in a far more important occasion in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Down a set and a break in the women’s doubles final against Hingis and Flavia Pennetta, Makarova and Vesnina hung tough and won their second Grand Slam doubles title together, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Sixteen years after her last US Open doubles title, the ‘90s were alive and well in Arthur Ashe Stadium as Hingis put on a volleying clinic with Pennetta in the opening set. They broke Vesnina to open up the match and began picking on her backhand side. A wild backhand miss from Vesnina on Makarova’s serve gave the unseeded pair a commanding 5-2 lead, and when Hingis easily held serve to wrap up the set, the No. 4 seeds left the court for a bathroom break.
A break of Vesnina’s serve off an unforced error gave Hingis and Pennetta a 3-2 lead in the second set, and it appeared that the match would be one-way traffic. But Makarova showed why she got to the singles semifinals this week by hitting a volley winner to break Pennetta in the very next game. Two games later, the Russians broke Hingis off a volley error from Pennetta, and Vesnina then comfortably held serve to level the match at one set each.
The No. 4 seeds showed impressive mental fortitude after breaking Pennetta to open the third set, saving numerous break points in their next two service games to maintain a 3-1 lead. The Italian then hit what appeared to be a volley winner on break point on Vesnina’s serve, but a Hawkeye challenge showed the ball was wide, and the Russian eventually hit an ace to give her team a 4-2 lead.
Hingis dropped her serve in the next game when Vesnina hit a delicate volley winner. With Makarova serving for the championship, she ripped a forehand up the line on match point, as both players jubilantly jumped for joy.
WHAT IT MEANS: Makarova and Vesnina became the first all-Russian pair to win the US Open women’s doubles title. It marks their second Grand Slam doubles title as a team, having also won the French Open together in 2013. Makarova also won the mixed doubles title here in 2012 with Bruno Soares of Brazil.
Despite the loss, Hingis can consider this tournament a success after reaching her first Grand Slam women’s doubles final in 12 years. She and Pennetta split $250,000 for reaching the final here. Makarova and Vesnina split a check for $520,000.
THE QUESTION: Do you think Makarova and Vesnina can keep up their red-hot form for the rest of the season?