Rome, May 21 (IANS) No.4 seeds Storm Hunter and Elise Mertens captured their first team title at the Italian Open by defeating top seeds Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-4 in the final, here.
The title is Mertens’ 17th career doubles title and Hunter’s sixth.
Hunter and Mertens’ straight-set win over Gauff and Pegula on Saturday capped off a dominant fortnight in Rome. The Australian-Belgian duo lost just one set during the tournament, with wins over Flipkens/Rosolska, Rosatello/Moratelli, Danilina/Babos, Bouzkova/Mattek-Sands, and the No.1 Americans.
Due to the threat of continuing rain, the doubles final, which was originally scheduled for after the singles final on Campo Centrale, was moved to Court Pietrangeli and played in front of an enthusiastic standing-room-only crowd.
The eventual champions struck first, breaking on a deciding point to lead 2-1. The top seeds got the break back to tie the set at 4-4, but Gauff was broken in the next game. Mertens closed out the set by holding serve in a tense 30-all game, with Hunter closing out the set with an overhead winner.
“I think in the first set we were a little bit more dominant, the ones who were crossing, putting first serves in. I think that made the difference, we held serve,” Mertens said.
Gauff and Pegula came into the final riding a strong wave of form. The duo was into their third consecutive WTA 1000 final, a stretch that included their second title of the season at the Miami Open. They immediately took advantage of a slight dip in form from the eventual champions, breaking Hunter for a 3-1 lead before Pegula consolidated to 4-1.
That would be as far as Gauff and Pegula would go. Gauff lost her serve from 40-15 up to give back the break advantage. With Hunter serving down 3-4, Gauff and Pegula won the longest and best rally of the match to earn a deciding point to break. But Hunter closed out the game after Gauff mishit a forehand return, leveling the set at 4-4.
The surge continued, as Hunter and Mertens broke Pegula to lead 5-4 and the Belgian served out the win in clinical fashion.
“In the second set when we had a little bit of a lull and they lifted, we just did well to keep every game closer.We managed to stick it out and get the win,” Hunter said.