Australian Open 2014 mixed doubles final preview: Toughest test for Sania and Tecau
It will be power versus power in the mixed doubles final on Sunday. The summit clash between Sania Mirza / Horia Tecau and Daniel Nestor / Kristina Mladenovic features two ladies who are known as much for their blistering forehands as for their glamour and looks.
This will be the third Grand Slam final for Nestor and Mladenovic, and the first for sixth seeded pair of Sania and Tecau. Though unseeded, Nestor/Mladenovic will start as favourites, having already won the 2013 Wimbledon title and reached the final at the 2013 French Open. Incidentally, in their only prior meeting, the Canadian-French team had edged the Indo-Romanian duo 7-6, 7-6, in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
Except for Mladenovic, the others have already won an Australian Open mixed doubles title at least once – Sania with Mahesh Bhupathi in 2009, Nestor with Elena Likhovtseva in 2007 and Katarina Srebotnik in 2011, and Tecau with Bethanie Mattek-Sands in 2012.
Neither team has faced a seeded pair till now. Nestor and Mladenovic are yet to drop a set in this tournament, having easily beaten Leander Paes and Daniela Hantuchova in the quarters and Scott Lipsky and Jie Zheng in the semis. On the other hand, Mirza and Tecau had to fight back from a set down in their first round and semi-final matches. Moreover, though both the women hit really hard from the baseline, Mladenovic’s big serve will be an added advantage for the unseeded duo.
That said, Sania and Horia will be not be massive underdogs. In their last match, they manifested amazing tenacity and power tennis to subdue the defending champions and local favourites, Matthew Ebden and Jarmila Gajdosova. Like Mladenovic, Gajdosova has a fine forehand and strong first serve- threats that Mirza and Tecau were able to handle with relative ease. Of course, the French-Canadian team has much more experience than the Aussie wild card entrants.
If tomorrow’s match goes to the super tie-break Team Sania may have an edge, but it will all come down to a few points here and there.
Barring the first set of the last match when he failed to hold his serve even once, Tecau has been rock-solid. Nestor, on the other hand, can be a bit unpredictable but at 41, he will be the most experienced player on court and holder of a whopping 84 ATP titles. The sixth seeds will perhaps fancy their chances more on Nestor’s serve than Mladenovic’s; the young French girl has been the very backbone of their team. Needless to say, Mirza-Tecau have their task cut out and will have to play out of their skin to stand a chance against their extremely formidable opponents.
Factors that may favour Mirza/Tecau:
1. Their last meeting at Wimbledon was very close.
2. Nestor’s second serve is vulnerable.
3. Sania can engage Nestor at the net and change directions. She needs to be ready for the smashes which worked for her in the Wimbledon 2013 quarter final match.
4. Mladenovic likes to go for the forehand down-the-line, and the net player from Team Sania should anticipate that.
Factors that may favour Nestor/Mladenovic
1. They are yet to lose a set here and have dominated in all their matches.
2. Tecau’s serve was broken twice in the first set of the semis and Sania’s second serve is always vulnerable.
3. Sania rarely changes direction of her cross-court ground strokes, making it easy for the net player to cross.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
Rd1: Lindstedt/Chan 4-6 7-6 10-8
Rd2: Fleming/Rodionova 6-2 6-2
QF:Qureshi/Goerges 6-3 6-4
SF: Ebden/Gajdosova 2-6 6-3 10-2
Rd1: Klaasen/Hseih 7-5 6-3
Rd2: Fyrstenberg/Raymond 6-4 6-1
QF: Paes/Hantuchova 6-3 6-3
SF: Lipsky/Zheng 6-3 6-1
The match is scheduled to start at 4 pm (10.30 am IST) on Rod Laver Arena and will be covered live by Star Sports 4 in India. Hopefully Sania will be able to give a Republic Day gift to her nation by winning her third Grand Slam!