Mektic and Pavic end title drought with convincing victory in Astana doubles final

09.10.2022    Views: 775
Source: KTF press-service

Ravi Ubha

The title drought is over for Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.

The Croatians pulled away from Adrian Mannarino and Fabrice Martin in Sunday’s final at the Astana Open for a 6-4, 6-2 win. Not since the end of June at the Eastbourne International, just before Wimbledon, had the second seeds lifted a trophy. And Mektic admitted earlier this week the pair were disappointed with their North American swing.

The emotions were different in Astana. «We are very happy,» said Mektic. «We played a great match. After a while, after the grass court season, our first title. We are obviously confident and motivated for the end of the season.»

Last season’s dominant side in men’s doubles put it all together indeed at the National Tennis Center for a fifth title overall in 2022 to boost their already strong chances of reaching the Nitto ATP Finals for the second consecutive year. They solidified their spot in fourth — the top eight teams qualify — and hold a roughly 1,500-point lead over No. 9 Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini, who fell in the Astana quarter-finals. The crown in Astana came a decade after Mektic recalled competing in the Kazakhstani capital.

«You are really lovely people,» he told the crowd during the awards ceremony. «I was here 10 years ago. I remember it well. It was a Challenger but I also had a good time.

«Hopefully it’s not the last time here.»

In that edition, Mektic was ranked 449th, a long way from his current No. 10. Like his partner Pavic, he is a former No. 1, too. Pavic enjoyed his first time in Astana.

«I want to congratulate the Kazakh Tennis Federation for putting up this event,» he said.

«I have to be honest, I like it very much. You have a great center, great conditions here. You are doing a great job with the tennis overall here, and keep it up.

«I really hope I’m going to be back next year.»

Mektic and Pavic had ousted the team they beat in last year’s Wimbledon final, Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos, in Friday’s semi-final. They came from a set down. Previously, they topped French Open finalists Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek.

In Mannarino — the Astana singles finalist in 2020 — and Martin, they faced an unseeded duo. But one that knocked off top-seeds Tim Puetz and Michael Venus this week. Mannarino, 34, contested his first tour-level doubles final after competing in his last doubles final at any level at a Challenger 10 years ago. The underdogs started the better, however.

Martin — a doubles Grand Slam finalist — authored a strong service hold for 1-0 and began the second game with a blistering backhand return winner.

It paved the way for a break point. Pavic, however, struck an effective first service and Mektic finished at the net. The start of the third game proved pivotal.

Mektic and Pavic won the best rally of the final, when Martin was forced to backtrack and throw up a defensive lob that mimicked a volleyball-like bump.Pavic confirmed the break with a stunning cross-court winner for 2-1.

«They started off good serving,» said Pavic. «Hit a couple of return winners. We saved that no-ad point, the break point, and I guess from that moment on I would say we were the much better team.»

After saving a break point at 5-4 — which turned out to be a set point, too — the Croatians fully settled.

Martin centered his attempted inside-out forehand and Pavic was there to hit a forehand volley into the open space for a break to begin the second.

Mektic and Pavic built a double break advantage and realistically sealed matters by holding for 5-1 after Mektic temporarily lost rhythm on his serve.

He produced an ace, though, on break point to avert danger, and the final concluded not long after when Mannarino netted a return.

«Congrats to you guys for a good week. You guys played too good today,» Martin said during the awards ceremony.

He had it right.


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