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Mattek-Sands, Safarova win Australian Open doubles title

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova won the Australian Open women’s doubles title on Friday in their first tournament together as a partnership, beating Chan Yung-jan and Zheng Jie 6-4, 7-6 (5).

Not only had Mattek-Sands and Safarova never played together before the first Grand Slam of the year, they had never even practiced together.

“Actually, we didn’t even really know which side we were going to play,” Mattek-Sands said. “We started off on the opposite sides, (then) we switched. I think we switched again. It was pretty spur of the moment.”

It marked the first time a new pairing had won a Grand Slam title since Nathalie Dechy of France and Russia’s Dinara Safina captured the 2007 U.S. Open title.

Mattek-Sands, a 29-year-old from Wisconsin known for her adventurous tennis outfits and multi-hued hair, was out for six months last year while recovering from hip surgery and wasn’t sure she would play doubles at Melbourne Park.

“In the off-season it was literally, ‘Let’s play Australian Open.’ I know some teams kind of plan for the year a little bit,” she said. “For me, you know, I want to get a chance to see how my hip felt, see how my body felt.”

The two came together in the off-season because Safarova’s coach is friends with Mattek-Sands’ husband, Justin.

“I had some partners where it took really a long time to find a good combination and to play well, but I think we pretty much (clicked) right away, we played well,” said Safarova, a Czech player who has had more success in singles, reaching the Wimbledon semifinals last year.

Even though they didn’t know each other’s playing styles, they bonded in the locker room over tea each morning.

“We would get our Earl Grey,” Mattek-Sands said.

“Chilling,” Safarova added.

It’s the first Grand Slam trophy for the Czech player. Mattek-Sands previously won the 2012 Australian Open mixed doubles title with Romanian Horia Tecau.

Asked whether she and Safarova had made plans to play again, Mattek-Sands said, “We actually haven’t even talked about it yet.”

Safarova, laughing, responded: “Would you like to play with me?”

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