The top-ranked women’s doubles team was down but not quite out in he Australian Open final Friday.
Gisela Dulko of Argentina and Italian Flavia Pennetta rallied from a set and 4-1 down to beat Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 - the first Grand Slam title for the Dulko-Pennetta combination, who made it to the quarterfinals at all the Grand Slams last year and the Wimbledon semifinals.
“We were like in shock ... a set and 4-1 down,” Dulko said. “In the changeover, we were like looking each other and saying, ‘C’mon, we play less than an hour. We cannot finish the match playing less than an hour in the final.’
“We just tried to go for it, didn’t try to wait for them, tried to play more aggressive. Because I think until this moment we couldn’t find a good way to play, to win the match. So we just keep fighting and trying.”
That was evident in the third set when Dulko and Pennetta, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 among doubles players, were already up a break at 3-1 when they broke again when Kirilenko netted a backhand.
They held in their next service game, then broke Azaranka and Kirilenko again to close out the match.
Dulko and Pennetta won seven doubles titles last year, including a 17-match winning streak.
“Last year was a great year, this year we are starting really good,” Pennetta said.
Azarenka and Kirilenko were playing their first Grand Slam tournament together. Azarenka, of Belarus, formerly was a two-time Grand Slam finalist, including last year at Melbourne Park with Shahar Peer.
Kirilenko’s best previous doubles result was a semifinal at last year’s Australian Open with Agnieszka Radwanksa.
In mixed doubles Friday, Chan Yung-jan of Taiwan and Paul Hanley of Australia advanced to Sunday’s mixed doubles final with a 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 (match tiebreak) win over American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Horia Tecau of Romania.