It will be a battle between the first-timers in the final of the women’s doubles competition at the 2019 US Open as Victoria Azarenka and Ashleigh Barty will battle Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka for the title. Both pairs will compete in their first Grand Slam final together, although Azarenka has reached three finals previously and Barty is the defending champion here in Flushing Meadows, albeit they did it with different partners.
Azarenka and Barty started their long-term partnership this year, first making their mark at the Miami Open where they stunned then-number one pairing of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in the opening round en route to the semifinals in just their second tournament together. As an unseeded pairing, they claimed their second wins over the Czech pairing and also upset soon-to-be Wimbledon champion Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova to lift the Internazionali BNL D’Italia trophy.
Mertens and Sabalenka is another new partnership formed this year and they did not have to wait long before earning their first big scalp. In just their second and third tournament together, they achieved what so many great pairings were unable to — claim back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Miami to win the “Sunshine Double”. They defeated the Australian Open champions and finalists, world number ones, and two solid top-eight pairings en route to their successes. It has been a dull season since then, but the pair still managed to reach the semifinals at the French Open and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon.
Road to the final: Victoria Azarenka and Ashleigh Barty
Azarenka and Barty had to recover from a set down to beat Margarita Gasparyan and Monica Niculescu in the first round. Not looking ultra-impressive early in the tournament, they were forced to save a match point in their tightly-contested affair with Nadiia Kichenok and Abigail Spears, avoiding the huge upset.
However, Azarenka and Barty raised their level just when it mattered. They faced off against local teenage sensations Cori Gauff and Caty McNally, seemingly unstoppable, in a highly-anticipated match on Grandstand. The veterans slammed a 6-0, 6-1 win on their younger counterparts, taking the win in just 48 minutes to book a spot in the quarterfinals.
Coming from a set and a break down, the Belarusian-Australian partnership clinched a fantastic turnaround against top seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, the Australian Open finalists and French Open champions. Another dominant performance came in the semifinals when they strolled to yet another one-sided win over the surprise package of Viktoria Kuzmova and Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Road to the final: Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka
Mertens and Sabalenka had a less dramatic run to the final, strolling through their opening matches without the loss of a set. Despite the fact that they had the chance to face easier opponents, credit could not be stolen from them as they eased past Roland Garros finalists Duan Yingying and Zheng Saisai in the quarterfinals before suffering a huge scare against the home favourites Vania King and Caroline Dolehide.
King, an accomplished former world number one and multiple-time Major champion, and Dolehide brought a very tough challenge and threatened to cause the huge upset (leading by a set and a break) before Mertens and Sabalenka returned to triumph 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 under the roof of the Louis Armstrong Stadium to book a place in their first Grand Slam final.
Match Analysis: Who will take home their first Major title as a pair?
This will be the second meeting between both pairings, with Mertens and Sabalenka taking a very tight 7-6, 7-5 win in their first clash at the Miami Open earlier this year. Sabalenka and Azarenka have already faced off in the singles competition at the US Open, with the younger Belarusian taking the victory in three sets.
Azarenka and Barty both possess good net skills and solid baseline power, but the same can be said for their opponents in the final. This will likely be a match which will come down to the wire and nothing can be used to separate both pairings.
Barty will return into the top-10 with a win, but she and Azarenka can effectively seal a spot in the year-ending Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen as they will surge into the fifth spot in the Porsche Race to Shenzhen leaderboard with the title. Elsewise, they will remain in the ninth spot.
Sabalenka’s top-10 debut is already confirmed with this fantastic run, but she could go as high as number six with the win on Sunday. Furthermore, her partner Mertens will reach a new career-high ranking of two if she wins her first Major title. One of the standout pairings of the year, Mertens and Sabalenka are seventh in the Porsche Race to Shenzhen leaderboard but will rise to third with this final, and could be the second-ranked pair with the title.
Azarenka and Barty have the necessary experience in a Grand Slam final, having reached that stage in both singles and doubles, while this will be the first Major final for both Mertens and Sabalenka. By that alone, the eighth seeds will come into the encounter as the slight favourite, but we can just never count out the fourth seeds who will be chasing their third title of the year.