Doubles joy for 'Kiki' and Timea

Sheer quality of Mladenovic and Babos too good for Duan and Zheng.

Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic © Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Kate Battersby

In a women’s doubles final which produced some terrific entertainment, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic captured their second Grand Slam title together, by defeating Duan Ying Ying and Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-3 on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The unseeded Chinese pair carved out a remarkable achievement – not only was this a first slam final for each of them, but they had never competed together as a duo before this fortnight.

But Babos and Mladenovic, the No.2 seeds, combined together perfectly on Sunday to lift the Coupe Simonne-Mathieu.

It was a more intriguing contest than the ultimate scoreline implied. On serve at 2-1, the Chinese racked up three separate chances to break in a four-deuce game. But the threat was resisted, and it was Duan’s serve that was breached for 2-4 as the opposition pounced at the first time of asking. By the business end of the set, Mladenovic and Babos were a smoothly-meshing machine, winning 89% of points on their first serve.

On Zhang’s serve the Frenchwoman slammed a forehand down the line to bring up the only set point they required; and there followed an absolutely thrilling exchange as Zheng and Babos pounded eight two-fisted backhands back and forth, before the Hungarian crashed the ball past Duan into the corner.

As fans waved the Chinese national flag in the stands, Zheng and Duan dug in. But the combined potency of the opposing pair rendered them too vulnerable. When a deep return from Mladenovic forced Duan to lob, Babos put away the winner to secure the break for 2-0. Unexpectedly, Mladenovic’s serve faltered to love, but it was only a brief stumble.

Next game she remarkably lobbed the 6'1" Duan, and when Zheng managed to reach it Mladenovic slammed a forehand out of reach. Twice more Mladenovic proved too good for Duan at the net, before a mighty baseline exchange between Babos and Zheng saw the Chinese eventually falter. Their advantage restored, the European pairing never looked back.

Still, at 5-3 the tension was palpable. Zheng sent a winner down the line to save the first match point, but on the second her return hung in the air as Babos and Mladenovic stared at the ball, fearful of celebrating too soon. The ball dropped well out, and as Mladenovic literally jumped for joy, Babos danced towards her until they fell into one another’s arms.

Kristina Mladenovic - Timea Babos - Roland-Garros 2019 - finale double dames©Julien Crosnier / FFT

At the Australian Open in January they tasted final defeat, losing the title they won a year earlier to Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai. But here once again was victory – and a second Roland-Garros crown for ‘Kiki’, to go with the title she earned alongside Caroline Garcia in 2016.

With the precious trophy in their hands, the new champions addressed one another tearfully.

“I have to say thank you to my partner, my sister, my best friend Kiki because with her, every day is like playing a final,” said Babos, addressing the appreciative crowd in French. “I love you so much.”

“My Timea who spoke in French, that was exceptional,” smiled Mladenovic at Babos. “Spending every day by your side is like being at a Grand Slam final and I’m very happy to have you as my best friend alongside me every day. Thank you for everything you give me on and off court.

"It’s a privilege to experience these moments – this moment is inscribed on my heart.”