MELBOURNE, Australia – Gabriela Dabrowski and Rohan Bopanna won the French Open mixed doubles title together last spring, only to lose a couple of tight ones in the quarters of Wimbledon and the US Open later in the summer.
Still, the 25-year-old Canadian didn’t expect to find out she’d been replaced by reading a story in an Indian news outlet online at the start of the season.
But that’s what Dabrowski says happened.
She let her racket do the talking as she exacted the best sort of revenge Sunday at the Australian Open.
The 25-year-old Canadian and new partner Mate Pavic of Croatia pulled out a 2-6, 6-4, 11-9 victory over Bopanna and his new partner, Timea Babos of Hungary and won the Australian Open mixed doubles title.
It was revenge best served cold on the only day of the tournament when the temperature and humidity were enough to finally close the roof of Rod Laver Arena.
Major No. 2 for the Canadian
“Well, a couple weeks ago in Brisbane I read an article where it said that Bopanna was playing with Babos, and I hadn’t spoken to him yet about playing. I had a lot of other things going on, so I was kind of just procrastinating the decision, I suppose, to find a partner for mixed doubles,” said Dabrowski, who barely let go of the championship trophy through the trophy ceremony through to the media interviews.
“Then after I read that article – well, it said he was playing with Timea. So straightaway, within a day, I messaged some people and Mate was one of those people and he responded almost immediately. Yeah, that’s how that happened.”
Dabrowski had contacted Jamie Murray, but he was already committed to Latisha Chan of Taipei. She also got in touch with Henri Kontinen, but he didn’t get the message before Pavic had agreed.
Tough (doubles) world out there
The doubles universe is a tough one. The stories of partners dumping partners if they feel a better offer has come along affects all but the top teams.
A year ago, Dabrowski thought she was all set to play the 2017 season with Maria José Martínez Sánchez of Spain. Until she wasn’t. Martínez Sánchez decided to go with Andreja Klepac of Slovenia. She began the season with Michaella Krajicek, but then the Dutch player got sick and left the Tour for awhile.
Luckily, Dabrowski randomly found Xu at Indian Wells, when she was looking for a partner for the Miami Open and the players’ two coaches happened to be sitting together at a lunch table.
Sometimes, things happen for a reason. Which doesn’t make the process any easier to take.
The story implies the two had discussed it, which Dabrowski said was not the case.
“(I was surprised) only because we hadn’t spoken about it. I wasn’t about to go find another partner without talking to him first. But this is the business, and this is the industry that we are in, and you kind of just have to have a tough skin. Having played predominantly doubles for the last few years, I’m kind of used to hearing stories like that, which is really unfortunate, I feel,” Dabrowski said.
“But at the same time, you know, clearly he made a good decision with her. They played so well all week. They’re both playing really well. So that’s the way it happens sometimes.”
Slow start, championship finish
Dabrowski admitted she was nervous in the first set because of the awkwardness of the situation. But she managed to put that to one side and focus on executing her shots the way she’d been working on them during the preseason and in practice.
The inside-out forehand return winner that clinched the title was exactly such a shot. She predicted where the serve would go, committed to what she wanted to do – and the return went exactly where she wanted it.
Knowing Bopanna from having played all those tight matches with him, Dabrowski also knew that his forehand can fail him in the late stages of matches. And that’s pretty much what happened in the end.
“I think we made a few good strategic plays on important points, which got us the break on Babos’ sserve in the second set. Then I think Mate served really, really well and had some clutch volleys. I think that pretty much carried us through to the end, she said. “I’m super happy. Australia has always been one of my favorite places in the whole world. It feels really special to be able to do well and play well and win here.”
This is the second mixed doubles Grand Slam for Dabrowski. She and partner Yifan Xu also made a quarter-final run in women’s doubles that came oh, so close to turning into something amazing but fell just short against No. 2 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.
But the fortnight caps a great trip Down Under for Dabrowski. She and Xu won the tuneup event in Sydney the week before the Australian Open.
Dabrowski was scheduled to head off to St. Petersburg, Russia Sunday night for the WTA Tour event there. She’ll rejoin Xu; the pair are the No. 1 seeds in the doubles draw.
And after that, it’s Fed Cup in Romania, from what Tennis.Life is told, although Dabrowski couldn’t confirm it Sunday.