Thursday, March 14, 2019 - Elise Mertens & Aryna Sabalenka play Gabriela Darbowski & Yifan Xu in the semifinal of the of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)
The 2019 BNP Paribas Open women’s doubles final is set, and will feature a highly-anticipated matchup between World No. 1 pairing Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova against unseeded Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka. While the longtime Czech partners have proven their championship mettle in the past with three Grand Slam trophies, Mertens and Sabalenka are out to prove that a new pair of contenders has arrived on the doubles scene.
Krejcikova and Siniakova have been impressive throughout the tournament so far, traversing a difficult path of worthy opponents on their road to the final. In their most recent contest, they survived in a 5-7, 7-6(5), 10-6 triumph over Chan Hao-Ching and Latisha Chan. As the No. 8 seeds, the upset-minded Taiwanese had multiple match point opportunities but couldn’t finish the job. Krejcikova and Siniakova showed impressive resolve, battling back from multiple deficits to book their spot in the finals.
While an Indian Wells finals appearance is no surprise for the Czechs, the same cannot be said for Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka. The newly formed pair of singles specialists (who reached the third round of the Australian Open in their first appearance together) are exceeding expectations in the desert.
While Belarus’ Sabalenka exited the singles competition earlier in the week after a heartbreaking fourth round defeat to Angelique Kerber, she’s more than happy to still be playing.
“It’s always nice to play doubles and stay in a tournament, especially here in this Tennis Paradise,” explained Sabalenka. “It doesn’t matter if it’s singles or doubles.”
Sabalenka and Mertens have upended two of the tournament’s top-5 seeds; expertly transitioning between each other’s on-court strengths to overwhelm their more seasoned opponents.
They will need every bit of their recent momentum to topple the fearsome Czech world No. 1’s on Saturday.