Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci have retained the world No.1 women’s doubles ranking and successfully defended their Australian Open crown thanks to a late comeback in the final in Melbourne.
The Italians came from 5-2 down in the third set to beat Russia’s Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 3-6 7-5 in Friday’s decider.
It meant they kept the joint top ranking, whereas Vesnina and Makarova would have taken over the top two positions had they triumphed.
They also became the first women’s pair to go back-to-back at Melbourne Park since Serena and Venus Williams in 2009-10.
The Williams sisters, four-time champions, withdrew before this year’s event because of an injury to Venus.
The Russians started poorly, as the Italians raced to a 5-1 lead in the opening set.
But from that point, Makarova and Vesnina started going for their shots and dominated much of the match.
While they couldn’t regain their lost ground in the first set, they controlled the second and looked certain winners when they raced to a 5-2 lead in the third.
Makarova and Vesnina had won their previous two meetings with the Italians, including last year’s French Open final.
But this time, they lost their nerve as they closed in on victory, while Errani and Vinci displayed great poise to break their opponents’ serve twice in succession, then race through the final two games for the loss of just one point.
It was their fourth grand-slam triumph, but first time they had successfully defended a major title, after they beat Australia’s Casey Dellacqua and Ashleigh Barty in last year’s final.
All four women in Friday’s final were seeded in the singles draw, but the only one who survived the first round was Makarova, who reached the fourth round, before losing to China’s Li Na.