Krejcikova, Siniakova triumph over Japanese duo

 - Kate Battersby

Czech pairing defeat Ninomiya and Hozumi to win maiden Grand Slam crown.

Katerina Siniakova Barbora Krejcikova Roland-Garros 2018.©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Katerina Siniakova has always listed Paris as her favourite city, and now she has reason anew to hold it close to her heart, as she and Barbora Krejcikova captured their maiden Grand Slam title at Roland-Garros 2018.

Having never tasted victory at this level either paired with one another or with others, the No.6 seeds took rapid command of the final against the remarkable Japanese duo of Eri Hozumi and Makato Ninomiya to win 6-3 6-3 in 65 minutes.

Huge friends Hozumi and Ninomiya made history by becoming the first all-Japanese pairing to reach any Grand Slam final. Having never played together at a Grand Slam before, they knocked out four seeded teams en route to the final without dropping a set, including the top-ranked duo Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic.

But Siniakova and Krejcikova also go back a long way, having captured the junior title here in 2013, along with Wimbledon and the US Open also that year. The ultimate showdown was to prove a hurdle too far for the Japanese.

In the fine tradition of their nation’s doubles heritage, Siniakova and Krejcikova became the first all-Czech pairing to win the title here since Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in 2011.

The Japanese pair got off to a dream start. On Krejcikova’s serve Ninomiya sent a stunning backhand return down the line to bring up an immediate opportunity to break; and then there she was again at the net, responding like lightning to a Siniakova volley to dispatch the winner. It was Ninomiya whose hustle proved crucial in the Japanese’ semi-final victory, belying her 1.57m stature to chase down whatever Chan Hao-Ching and Yang Zhaoxuan could throw at them.

But on Hozumi’s serve, the Czechs abruptly righted the ship with a break to love, and they were never to be headed again. Moreover, they were wise enough to bide their time, rarely forcing the pace of a rally, more often waiting for their chance to capture the point. At 3-2, when Ninomiya was hesitant at the net, the Czechs’ opportunity to establish clear water arrived; a moment later it was again Ninomiya who sent a smash out by metres.

Suddenly the Czechs were in command. The Japanese pair held on, the great bond of friendship between them apparent after every point. Serving for the set Krejcikova had an attack of nerves, and three times in that game her opponents had the chance to get it back on serve. Ninomiya particularly will regret a volley she put in the net. Every chance went by and the Czechs punished them by sealing the set at the first opportunity.

It was the very first time this fortnight that the Japanese pair discovered how it felt to lose a set. They needed to assert a presence on the scoreboard, but instead the Czechs tightened their grip on the match with a break right off the bat.

If the Japanese could have smiled their way to victory, then no opponents would have been their equal, such was their pleasure in their professional bond and their game; but despite the scattering of national “circle of the sun” flags draped around the stands of Chatrier, it was the Czechs whose presence dominated the great Chatrier court.

At 3-4 the Japanese threatened once again, but first Krejcikova stonewalled them at the net and then the Japanese began to look a little weary. At 3-5 on Hozumi’s serve, the road back into this match simply stretched too far ahead for them to see their intended destination. The Czechs closed it out with a break to love, Krejcikova sending up a lob which Ninomiya could only put in the net – and the Czech pair embraced in disbelief.