Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina exacted revenge for their heartbreaking Australian Open final loss to the reunited pairing of Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic with a straightforward victory at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open, taking a comfortable 6-4, 6-2 win after just 68 minutes to reach their second final of the year.
It was a world-class performance by the Russians and they were unstoppable on their serve, losing just 14 points on serve throughout their encounter and ultimately claiming the confidence-boosting victory and sealing their place in the final having not lost a set throughout the tournament.
Makarova and Vesnina overcomes a slow start to take the first set
A fine start for Babos and Mladenovic saw the Frenchwoman dominating the net proceedings, managing to follow up her partner’s powerful and formidable serves to earn the first service hold.
Makarova’s inability to defend her vulnerable second serves proved to be costly, as the Russian pairing took some time to warm up. They were broken in the opening service game, and the momentum seemed to be pointing towards the Australian Open champions.
Crucial errors from Babos at the net, however, gifted the break back to the Olympic champions as Makarova and Vesnina started to find their groove. The match-changing point could have well been the deciding point in the fifth game when the Russians targeted Babos at the net, and a resultant error from the Hungarian allowed them to narrowly hold serve and level the scores.
They went on to ride on their momentum, and break serve which eventually pushed them to a commanding 5-3 lead. Babos’ nerveless serving saw them fend off a set point, remaining in contention as they forced Makarova and Vesnina to serve out the set. However, they were simply unstoppable on their serves as they lost just eight points behind them throughout the set, taking it 6-4 after just 35 minutes.
Makarova and Vesnina seal their spot in the final
Excellent play from Makarova saw her single-handedly claim the crucial deciding point in the opening game, focusing her merciless volleys on Babos with the top seeds taking the break in the early stages. The match soon became a one-way affair as Makarova and Vesnina started to play some top-notch tennis while Babos and Mladenovic struggled with the pace the Russian pair are playing at.
Despite trailing by a set and a double-break, Babos and Mladenovic never stopped fighting and their never-say-die attitude finally had its rewards as a rush of adrenaline saw them retrieving one of the breaks back. However, a possible comeback might just have come too late as the higher-ranked pairing regained their composure in the best possible manner, rattling off eight of the next nine points to take a commanding 5-1 lead.
Impressively enough, Mladenovic came up with three consecutive winners at the net to fend off three match points and extended the match for one more game. It was some inspired play but not enough to fight off the fired-up Russians as Makarova and Vesnina ultimately sealed the win after just an hour and eight minutes.