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Krawczyk, Salisbury deny Vesnina, Karatsev to capture French Open mixed doubles crown

Desirae Krawczyk and Joe Salisbury captured their first Grand Slam mixed doubles title in gritty fashion, coming from a set down to deny first-time pairing Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev 2-6, 6-4, [10-5].

The American-British pair were overpowered in a one-sided first set, but hung tough to snatch the second and dominated the ensuing match tiebreak.

“We weren’t really expecting this,” said Salisbury afterwards. “They killed us in the first set, and I think that it was a combination of sort of us getting better, then they dropped their level a bit. All week I think we have just gone into it relaxed, enjoying ourselves and seeing what happens. We have come out with a Grand Slam title.”

For Krawczyk, the runner-up in women’s doubles at Roland Garros last year alongside Alexa Guarachi, it is a first Grand Slam trophy of any kind. Salisbury adds the title to his 2020 Australian Open men’s doubles crown with Rajeev Ram. He is also the first Briton to become a Roland Garros champion since 1982, when John Lloyd partnered Wendy Turnbull to the mixed doubles title.

Read more: Doubles Dossier: Desirae Krawczyk keeps it social

Long-term partners Krawczyk and Salisbury both emerged from the US college system: Krawczyk is an alumna of Arizona State University, while Salisbury played for the University of Memphis. Their previous best Grand Slam performance together was a semifinal run at the Australian Open in January, where they were edged in a match tiebreak by Samantha Stosur and Matthew Ebden.

“I think we played 2019,” said Krawczyk. “At US Open, we played there. And then we played at Oz, and I just kept bugging him. We just kind of paired up. I didn’t know Joe before I came on tour. It’s been fun.”

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Vesnina and Karatsev had put together an eye-catching run through the draw to the final. Former doubles World No.1 Vesnina, who returned to tennis in February following maternity leave, was playing her first major since Roland Garros 2018; Karatsev had never competed in a Grand Slam doubles draw before this fortnight, and was making his mixed doubles debut at any level.

The Russians’ blend of power and experience had been set in motion back in February, when Karatsev asked Vesnina to team up with a berth at the Tokyo Olympic Games in mind – a goal that will now be much closer.

Read more: No mixed message: Karatsev, Vesnina find chemistry in Paris

They showed off the sensational form that had got them to the final in a dominant opening set. Karatsev unleashed his brutal weight of shot at almost every opportunity, racking up a stream of winners and passing shots that left Krawczyk and Salisbury reeling.

Vesnina, meanwhile, brought the knowhow, finding angles and perfectly placed lobs that complemented Karatsev’s pace.

Vesnina and Karatsev broke Salisbury to start the first set and Krawczyk to end it. Though Krawczyk and Salisbury found a better groove on serve in the second, by 4-4 the Russians’ had yet to face a break point – indeed, they had only lost six points on serve to this point.

But a sprinkling of forehand errors from both on Karatsev’s serve opened the door – and Salisbury powered through it, finding a brilliant return winner to seal a crucial break. A contested call on a putative ace on set point in the next game was only a minor hurdle as the Briton comfortably forced a match tiebreak.

Vesnina and Karatsev started it poorly, each making volley errors on the first two points and enabling Krawczyk and Salisbury to leap out to a 4-0 lead. Improved serving saw them cut the lead to 6-4, but the gulf was too great to make up. A brilliant Krawczyk return regained the momentum for her team, and the American closed out the final with consecutive unreturned serves.

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