Monday, September 07, 2015

Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza cruise into ladies doubles quarterfinals at U.S. Open

NEW YORK, NY, USA - One year ago, top ranked doubles players Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza were playing on Louis Armstrong Stadium in search of Grand Slam glory. The two returned to the US Open's second biggest showcourt on Sunday afternoon, but this time on the same side of the net. Hingis and Mirza teamed up in March of this year and have been on fire ever since, their 6-3, 6-0 third round victory over No.13 seeds Barbora Strycova and Michaella Krajicek evidence of their dominating presence.

"We try and enjoy it, and a full house for a women's doubles match, how can you not enjoy it?" said Mirza, who became the first Indian woman to reach No.1 after winning a hat trick of titles in Indian Wells, Miami, and Charleston - all with Hingis.

It came down to just one service break that made the difference for the top seeded team in the opening set, but the second saw Hingis and Mirza break away from their seasoned opposition with three more breaks of serve and an ace to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals.

"Today I didn't really have to do that much!" Hingis said. "She was really on fire, finishing in style with an ace, one of the best forehands in the world; it's so much fun to play with Sania."

In the midst of a full-scale doubles comeback, the former No.1 in singles and doubles really began to hit her stride at last year's US Open when she reached the final with Flavia Pennetta. The duo took out Mirza and then-partner Cara Black in the semis before falling to Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the championship match - Hingis' first in women's doubles since 2002.

"This atmosphere and the fans, that's what made me come back and play here. And next to Sania, it's just a real pleasure."

Hingis and Mirza's successful spring suffered a small hiccup when they lost a surprising quarterfinal encounter with eventual (and reigning Australian Open) champions, Lucie Safarova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. But their coronation finally came at Wimbledon, where they rallied from 2-5 in the final set to outlast Makarova and Vesnina under the roof at the All England Club.

With Mattek-Sands and Safarova sidelined due to the Czech star's abdominal injury, Hingis and Mirza are all too aware of the expectations on them to repeat their Wimbledon run and claim a second major title as a team, but the two appear to be taking it all in stride.

"I think we're playing good; we're getting better with every match, and hopefully we can peak right until the end," Mirza explained. "We're happy to be in the second week; we're the number one seeds, the pressure is always on us, but we're trying to just come out and enjoy and try to entertain the fans even more."

The top seeds face a stern test right away as they next face No.9 seeds, Chan Yung-Jan and Chan Hao-Ching. Hingis and Mirza played the sister act twice during the Emirates Airlines US Open Series, with the Chans winning their most recent match at the Western & Southern Open. Playing out on Court 17, the two sisters recovered from a set down to edge Romanians Irina Camelia Begu and Raluca Olaru, 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(4).

"It's not easy. First of all, we try not to fight with each other!" elder sister Yung-Jan (who also goes by Latisha) said with a laugh when asked about playing doubles with a sibling. "But today, it didn't matter if we won or lost; it was a great match, and it's very memorable. We have so many friends here supporting us."

Another team digging out a tough match was No.5 seeds Caroline Garcia and Katarina Srebotnik, who took two out of three tie-break sets played against Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson.

Next up for them is another unseeded pairing in Anna-Lena Groenefeld and CoCo Vandeweghe, who took out 2013 champions and No.7 seeds, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in straight sets. 

Elsewhere on the grounds, 2008 singles finalist Jelena Jankovic and partner Aleksandra Krunic couldn't convert on a 4-2 final set lead on No.4 seeds Casey Dellacqua (a 2013 finalist) and Yaroslava Shvedova (a 2010 champion), losing 2-6, 7-5, 7-5. The final match of the day involved Hingis' former partner Flavia Pennetta, who has teamed up with countrywoman and 2012 champion Sara Errani (with Roberta Vinci) to upset No.6 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.

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