Salisbury, Krawczyk crowned mixed doubles champions

British-American pair come back to defeat Russian duo Vesnina and Karatsev in an exciting final

Desirae Krawczyk, Joe Salisbury, Roland Garros 2021, mixed doubles trophy © Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Danielle Rossingh

Joe Salisbury became the first British champion at Roland-Garros in 39 years by winning the mixed doubles trophy with Desirae Krawczyk in Paris on Thursday.

The British-American pair overcame a strong start by Russian duo Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev to win 2-6, 6-4 [10-5].

“I didn’t expect this,” Salisbury said, after becoming the first Briton to win a title on the clay of Roland-Garros since John Lloyd triumphed in the same event with Australian Wendy Turnbull in 1982.

“They killed us in the first set, and I think that it was a combination of us getting better, then they dropped their level a bit."

Krawczyk, who made the women's doubles final last year in Paris, has picked up her first Grand Slam winner's trophy, while Salisbury added a second major to his resume after clinching the 2020 Australian Open men's doubles title alongside Rajeev Ram.

“All week I think we have just gone into it kind of relaxed, enjoying ourselves and seeing what happens,” said Salisbury. “We have come out with a Grand Slam title.”

The pair won’t be playing at Wimbledon together.

“He ditched me,” joked Krawczyk.

“A couple months ago I said that I was probably going to play with a Brit for Wimbledon,” said Salisbury, adding he will be partnering with Harriet Dart at the All England Club. “I thought it would be good to have an all-British partnership for Wimbledon. So unfortunately I ditched her for that. But I'm sure we'll team back up again after.”

Elena Vesnina et Aslan Karatsev, Roland-Garros 2021©Philippe Montigny / FFT

The Russians, who will likely team up for the mixed doubles event at the Tokyo Olympics next month, were the dominant team for most of the match, and actually ended up winning one more point than their opponents.

“I love Paris, and I love Roland-Garros,” Vesnina told the crowd on the main Court Philippe-Chatrier after playing her first Grand Slam final since giving birth to a baby girl in 2018.

“And of course, I want to thank my partner, who played first time ever mixed doubles, so please, cheer him up!”

“He carried us all the way to the final, we were close, but our opponents were a little bit better today,” added the reigning Olympic doubles champion and former women's doubles world No.1.

Aslan Karatsev, Elena Vesnina, Desirae Krawczyk, Joe Salisbury, Roland-Garros 20201, mixed doubles final© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

For a set-and-half, Salisbury and Krawczyk were under heavy attack, as they were outplayed by Vesnina and Karatsev.

Karatsev, who lit up the Australian Open with a run to the singles semi-finals after coming through qualifying, overwhelmed the British-American pair with fierce groundstrokes from the back of the court, while the experienced Vesnina showed off her finesse at the net.

The Russian pair ripped through the first set in 29 minutes, and looked on the way to their first Grand Slam title together when the match suddenly turned in the ninth game of the second set.

Having broken serve with a backhand winner down-the-line for a 5-4 lead, Salisbury went on to take the set on his own serve after a dispute with umpire Carlos Ramos about a line call.

Fired up, Salisbury and Krawczyk raced to a 6-1 lead in the match tiebreak as the level of their opponents suddenly dropped. A return in the net by three-time major doubles winner Vesnina handed their opponents four match points, and they lost the contest on an error by Karatsev.