June 25, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

One win away from the US Open title for Dabrowski and Routliffe

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Given what they’ve overcome to get here, the US Open women’s doubles final should be a relatve piece of cake for Canadians Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe.

(And yes, Routliffe, who officially represents New Zealand, is very much Canadian).

They will need it, as their opponents are – well, let’s just say Laura Siegemund and Zvonareva are not only past champions, but there’s always plenty going on with their side of the court.

Still, after a fraught quarterfinal and a nervy semi, the pair should be ready for anything as they look for their first women’s doubles Grand Slam title in only their fourth tournament as a pair.

Credentialed Townsend fan taunts Dabrowski

There was a whole lot of Canadian content on Louis Armstrong Stadium Tuesday, when Dabrowski and Routliffe, the No. 16 seeds, met popular No. 6 seeds Leylah Fernandez and Taylor Townsend.

They were outplayed in the first set, with everything going like clockwork for Fernandez and Townsend, who had nearly all of the crowd loudly in their corner.

But then, Dabrowski and Routliffe started figuring a few things out. They lobbed more on return. They were more aggressive at the net. And as the crowd began to grow after the end of the Novak Djokovic vs Taylor Fritz match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, it began getting louder.

Notably, one man – who had a tournament credential around his neck, no less – began doing his best to get under Dabrowski’s skin from the front row behind one end of the court.

Here he is (sadly my good camera overheated, or I’d have had a good look at his credential. But even with my fancy phone, he was just too far away).

“Every single time that I went to the towel at that box, he was cheering for Leylah and Taylor but just being extra, looking at me. I have no problem if I’m here and you’re looking at them cheering
them on, but you can’t look directly in my face and cheer like that. You just can’t do that directly. No, that’s just not okay,” Dabrowski said.

“He knew what he was doing,” said Routliffe. “I kept thinking, ‘Oh, he wasn’t saying anything to me at all. Why Gaby? You know what I mean?’ Like, you can’t target a specific person like that. I think that’s inappropriate.”

The chair umpire instructed security to stand in the corner of the court, near where the tournament-credentialed man was taunting Dabrowski.

Routliffe appealed to the chair umpire, who had a security guard stand in that corner to intervene when the man continued to taunt Dabrowski. And eventually, he did quiet down.

But there were more challenges, including the high heat and humidity that lit the emotional flame even more.

It was getting very loud inside Louis Armstrong, too, which made it difficult for all the players to hear any advice from their coaches.

Ups and Downs on the Way to Victory

Dabrowski and Routliffe got on a roll as Fernandez and Townsend’s level dropped, and ended up leading 4-1 – two service breaks in the third set.

And then the Can-American pair, buoyed by the crowd support and getting revved up themselves, came all the way back to tie it at 4-4. Dabrowski and Routliffe broke again – but couldn’t serve it out.

Quickly, they went down 2-7 in the match tiebreak. It kind of looked as if all was lost. But then … with the match just about on her racquet, Townsend double-faulted. Twice.

A serious momentum shift. From 2-7 down, Dabrowski and Routliffe won eight of the next nine points to win it.

“That was the most mentally tough thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my entire life on a tennis court, easily,” said Routliffe, who had never played on a stadium as big as Louis Armstrong and had never gone this deep into a major.

“We were just, like, yeah, the whole world was against us basically,” Dabrowski said. “It does feel like that when you’re in the moment and you’re emotional and you’re trying to win the match,” Routliffe added.

Semis Ride vs Hsieh and Wang

They caught a break in the quarterfinals, when the Czech team of Barbora Strycova and Marketa Vondrousova (who had defeated their No. 1-ranked countrywomen Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova) had to withdraw before the match.

Vondrousova, who was still alive in singles, had a bad shoulder and didn’t want to risk it.

So Dabrowski and Routliffe had nearly three days before they returned to Louis Armstrong Stadium Friday to a much different atmosphere.

There weren’t as many people. And Hsieh Su-Wei and Wang Xinyu, the Roland Garros champions, had neither the overwhelming support of the crowd, nor quite the same type of ability to get on an absolute roll.

Dabrowski and Routliffe easily won the first set. And then – once again, it got complicated.

Up a break, Routliffe’s serve absolutely went off the boil, resulting in marathon games at 2-1 (when she was broken) and at 3-4, when they saved break points and held.

They broke for 6-5 – but were broken at love serving for the match before finally prevailing in the tiebreak.

It’s been quite a ride. And the key, Routliffe said, has been transparency.

“I think first off because we’re really honest with each other. We’re always really upfront with what we want and what we need on the court,” she told TSN. “We knew each other from a while ago – I think. more like acquaintances. And now we’re becoming closer and closer every week and I think that’s really helping with our bond on court and off the court.”

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