The doubles final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships saw Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina defeating Andrea Hlavackova and Peng Shuai in three thrilling sets, a match where rain delays became a norm. This win allowed the Russian pairing to rise to number three in the Road to Singapore leaderboard, with the pairing of Hlavackova and Peng rising to the top spot after an incredible start to the season.
The Russians take the first set comfortably
The Russian pairing had the best possible start to the match possible as they came into the match firing, breaking serve in their opening return game to get the early advantage with some good net play. Going up 0-30 in the next game, Hlavackova and Peng looked to get onto the scoreboard and return level on serve as they threatened to break serve.
Nevertheless, Makarova came up with some good serves and played a solid baseline game, consolidating the break in a nervy service game to extend their lead to three games. After a five-minute short rain delay, Hlavackova and Peng returned onto the court and finally took their first game of the match, getting themselves onto the scoreboard with a narrow hold of service.
The short rain delay seemed to solve all problems for the Czech-Chinese pairing as they broke back just right in the next game, with Makarova and Vesnina failing to save a third break point after coming from 15-40 down. Despite being pegged back, it did not seem to affect the Russians’ momentum as they provided the best reply possible, breaking straight back and regaining the lead.
This time, they held onto their lead as they affirmed it with a comfortable service hold, extending their lead to three games. With the momentum running in them, Makarova and Vesnina easily broke serve once more and clinched the first set 6-2 after 41 minutes of play.
Hlavackova and Peng fights back
The start of the second set saw Hlavackova and Peng having the best possible start, breaking serve in just the opening game of the set and earning the early advantage. Nevertheless, the Russian pair broke straight back with a lucky net cord going into their favour on deciding point. The first lengthy rain delay soon arrived upon us after Makarova and Vesnina held their serve to love for a 2-1 lead, forcing the players to travel back to the locker room as rain halted play.
After more than one and a half hours, the players finally returned back onto the court to continue the second set. The Russian came out firing after the delay, earning three break points once play resumed. However, Peng and Hlavackova came up with some incredible tennis to carve out a tough hold of service to prevent them from falling behind by a set and a break. After an exchange of comfortable service holds, there was another slight rain delay as it started to drizzle once again.
Fortunately, play was only stopped for 10 minutes. A few points after, there were large movements on the courts once more as this time, rain halted play from continuing for about 15 minutes. When the players returned to action, it was finally Peng and Hlavackova who were the ones who made the first breakthrough as they easily broke serve, getting the advantage and looked poised to send the match into a deciding set. What happened next was certainly unexpected as the Russian pair broke at love in the following game, returning level on the scoreboard.
There was a third consecutive service break as this time it was Vesnina who lost her service game despite being up 40-15, gifting Hlavackova and Peng the golden opportunity to serve out the second set all of a sudden. Fending off three break points in the process, Peng showed nerves of steel to successfully serve the second set out, leveling the match and sending it into a super tiebreak.
Makarova and Vesnina strolls to victory
It was an abundance of mini breaks as three consecutive points at the start of the match tiebreak were won by the receiving pairs, before the Russian pairing won their first service point to lead 3-1. Soon, Makarova and Vesnina looked on course for their first title of the year when they found themselves leading 5-2 and with everything going right for them.
With nothing separating them from then on, Vesnina brought up match point with an excellent passing lob winner, leaving Peng shell-shocked. After missing two match points, the Russians finally converted on their third match point as Hlavackova hit a forehand long, gifting the title to Makarova and Vesnina.