Herbert, Mahut triumph on home soil

 - Dan Imhoff

French duo beat No.2 seeds Marach and Pavic to become third all-French duo to win RG men's doubles.

Nicolas Mahut Pierre-Hugues Herbert Roland-Garros 2018.©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

The chants of “allez Les Bleus” started the moment Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut strolled onto Court-Philippe-Chatrier on Saturday.

With the home crowd pining for just the third all-French team to win the men’s doubles at Roland-Garros, the stadium was in full voice with the famous Tricolour battle cry once the pair delivered.

Adding to Grand Slam trophies they had collected as a team at the 2015 US Open and 2016 Wimbledon, Herbert and Mahut backed their aggressive game plan to deny No.2 seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic 6-2 7-6(4).

“It's certain that the first title is always very special. But to tell the truth, the feelings I felt is almost like the first, because it's at home,” Herbert said. “Roland Garros is ‘the’ tournament. When you're a French guy, you want to win it. You dream of winning such a tournament.”

They followed in the footsteps of Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in 2014 and Henri Leconte and Yannick Noah in 1984 as the third all-French champions at Roland-Garros.

And there was no happier fan in the stands then Noah himself, the pair’s Davis Cup captain.

“I had lost finals in Roland, I had lost in the finals in Australia, and we said that we have to win this one,” Mahut said. “So it was really important. I have been waiting for it for 15 years.”

The French sixth seeds signalled their intent immediately when Herbert stepped in to thump a forehand volley into Marach on the first point of the match. They went on to break on a double fault from Pavic.

Herbert, who had already come off a career-best third-round showing in the singles, was again at it with quick hands, picking off a sharp angled volley to hold for 3-1 and the double-break was secured when Marach – twice a Roland-Garros doubles quarter-finalist – misfired on a backhand.

The 36-year-old Mahut, who had already lost a Roland-Garros final with Michael Llodra against the Bryan brothers in 2013, duly took advantage to serve out the opening set with an ace down the T.

Marach again stumbled on serve in the second set, throwing down a double fault to be broken at 3-3, sending the expectant home crowd into a Mexican wave.

But with the finish line in sight, the Frechmen allowed the Australian Open champions back into the contest as Mahut was broken for 4-4.

Marach and Pavic, who were featuring in their third Grand Slam final in the past 12 months, appeared to have stolen momentum.

But when Mahut stood steady to survive four set points on serve, belief that home champions would be crowned was restored.

Herbert closed out the tie-break with the winning volley, sending Mahut sprawling onto his back in jubilation.

“It was a beautiful surprise playing on centre court. I don't know if it was almost full or what, but we had a feeling that they were really present,” Mahut said. “We were hearing ‘allez les Bleus’ and ‘La Marseillaise’ at the end. These are things I will never forget.”