Mladenovic, Babos pull off repeat

The No.2 seeds are the first women's team to successfully defend their Roland-Garros doubles title since 2009.

Kristina Mladenovic, Timea Babos, Roland-Garros 2020, Finale©Pauline Ballet / FFT
 - Simon Cambers

Sometimes, you have to experience suffering to really appreciate the joy.

For Kristina Mladenovic, Roland-Garros 2020 proved to be the ultimate redemption, her triumph in the women's doubles with partner Timea Babos on Sunday the perfect ending to one of the most difficult periods of her career.

Mladenovic and Babos beat first-time Grand Slam finalists Alexa Guarachi of Chile and American Desirae Krawczyk 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 33 minutes on Sunday.

The French-Hungarian duo captured their fourth major together as a team and are the first back-to-back women's doubles champions in Paris since Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual won the title in 2008 and 2009.

It was the fifth Grand Slam title for Mladenovic but surely her most satisfying, less than a month after she and Babos were disqualified from the US Open and the Frenchwoman was forced to spend 10 days inside her New York hotel room because she had spent time with Benoit Paire before he tested positive for the coronavirus on the eve of the event.

In a long, emotional on-court speech, Mladenovic thanked Babos for helping her through it all and speaking in her press conference later, she explained what it meant to her to win the title after such a difficult time.

“Basically I was isolated for two weeks, 10 days exactly in the room,” she said. “I couldn't do anything. But it's overall two weeks, because it started the day before the tournament started. And it affected me so much mentally but also physically.

“Especially when you're French and when you love as much as me competing in Roland-Garros, and when this thing happened to you like two weeks before Roland-Garros, I cannot tell you how bad my preparation was, even though we tried everything to be ready.

“But my body was not following. Of course, mentally (it) was tough. I had also a tough outcome in my first-round singles (at Roland-Garros). I was on the edge. I wanted to be great on court for my partner, because we deserved it after what happened to us in US Open. We couldn't compete.

“To lift here the trophy…it's always special, but this time you cannot imagine like what relief and what pride it is to actually, even for me personally, to leave this tournament with such a reward that I cannot -- I still have to, like, wake up and believe it's actually true.”

The match itself was tight, with Babos and Mladenovic taking the first set thanks to two breaks to one, before the second set became a nervy affair, with six breaks of serve in a row before Mladenovic, fittingly, fired a forehand down-the-line to hold serve and clinch victory.

“It's definitely a relief,” Babos said. “I'm always honest. I think this was the worst match we played in a very long time,” she said. “To win it at the end, it just shows how much we were struggling for the last couple weeks, let's say.

“We had very, very rough September, especially Kiki, but obviously it affected me. I mean, I care for her and our friendship, not only the tennis. This is just tennis. OK, we were disqualified. It's unfair. But for what was happening behind it was tough for me also to see.

“Then we were coming here obviously always with high expectations, but at the end with a little bit lower ones, because we really didn't know how we can manage. Also, staying in the bubble, it's really not easy. This is my 23rd day in the same hotel room, guys. It's depressing.

“So I'm really, really happy after US Open to take the title here. It's somehow very, very special. I always say it's special, but this, it's different. It's like a weird feeling. It's even hard to describe. I think we need again a little bit of time to really understand, like, what happened and I guess we're going to have time again as we don't have tournaments. So voila! It's a good way to finish, I guess.”

With a fifth major doubles crown added to her trophy cabinet, Mladenovic now ties Sara Errani and Bethanie Mattek-Sands for third-most Grand Slam doubles titles among active players, behind Serena and Venus Williams and Lisa Raymond. Babos has taken over the next spot on that list by herself with her fourth career Grand Slam doubles triumph.

For Guarachi and Krawczyk, their first Grand Slam final didn’t go quite the way they had hoped but they’ll climb the rankings after the best fortnight of their careers.

“Thanks to Desirae for being my rock these past eight weeks,” she said. “I’m so excited for what the future holds for us.”

There was also a repeat in men's doubles as Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies defended their Roland-Garros silverware with success over Bruno Soares and Mate Pavic on Saturday.