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L&T Mumbai Open: Champions Natela Dzalamidze, Veronika Kudermetova rediscover winning formula en-route to second WTA title

Russian duo Natela Dzalamidze and Veronika Kudermetova struggled past the pairing of Barbora Stefkova and Bibiane Schoofs in the final of the Mumbai L&T Open to pick up their second WTA Trophy with a straight sets 6-4, 7-6 victory.

 L&T Mumbai Open: Champions Natela Dzalamidze, Veronika Kudermetova rediscover winning formula en-route to second WTA title

Veronika Kudermetova and Natela Dzalamidze with their Mumbai Open trophies. Image Credit: Mumbai Open

Their second trophy comes almost exactly two years after their first WTA doubles trophy, in which they beat Chang Kai-chen and Chuang Chia-jung of Chinese Taipei in the 2016 Taipei WTA Challenger. That victory was the culmination of an extremely successful two years as the pair won several ITF titles together, with their first title coming in Moscow in 2015.

However, the trophies dried up for both players shortly after their landmark victory, when they switched partners for a brief spell, a decision that Dzalamidze still regrets taking. "I was frustrated that we stopped playing together. It was a mistake on my part because it was my decision to stop playing together," said Dzalamidze, when asked about their split, adding, "We had a great partnership and I believe that we still have it in us to become top doubles players. I'm grateful to Veronika, for us being back together again. We feel amazing now, we're very happy. It's been a really long while since we won a title."

Dzalamidze and Kudermetova got off to a running start in their Mumbai Open final against the Dutch-Czech duo of Stefkova and Schoofs, racing into a healthy lead with an early break and then sticking to their basics to clinch the first set 6-4. The second set was a little more difficult for the pair, as Schoofs and Stefkova upped the ante, but a crucial break made it 5-5 for the Russians, which they followed up with a hold to make it 6-5. Schoofs/Stefkova held serve to force the second set into a tiebreak, which Dzalamidze/Kudermetova won 7-4.

"From my side, I would say it was not an easy match for me. Veronika did a great job and she was supporting me on the court," said Dzalamidze, referring to a number of unforced errors she made during a difficult spell in the beginning of the first set. However, the Russian was also quick to point to the pair's consistency over the course of the tournament, saying, "The most important thing is that we tried to be as consistent as we could. Maybe we haven't played our best tennis so far, but we did a pretty good job."

Their cohesiveness as a unit has been on display on multiple occasions over the course of the tournament, as they stormed to the final without dropping a single set. Their journey to the trophy was not the easiest, having had their work cut out for them in the semi-final against top-seeded pair Dalila Jakupovic and Irina Khromacheva. The Russian duo beat the favourites 7-5, 6-3, despite struggling a little in the very beginning of the first set. Prior to that, they comfortably dispatched both Misaki Doi/Tereza Martincova and Mihika Yadav/Mahak Jain by scorelines of 6-1, 6-1, handing out breadsticks like they worked at an Italian restaurant.

Dzalamidze was quick to praise her partner, saying that Kudermetova's speed allows them to play a quicker style of tennis, which can be difficult for opponents to keep up with. "She has a good serve and amazing forehand. She plays fast and I can finish it off with the volleys," said the 26-year-old, adding, "We match each other. I feel comfortable. Also, because we've played together for so many years, I know already what she's going to do and what move she's going to make. I don't even need her to tell me, I can see it happening behind me."

The two Russians are confident in their abilities, and aim to grow with time into contenders on the biggest and best stage of tennis. "We have a great level and we have a game to be top doubles players. We've had great matches, and we've won matches against top doubles players. Slowly slowly, it'll take a while for us, but we'll get better. Unfortunately for us, there was a slight gap in the middle, but we've started doing well again," said Dzalamidze, speaking of their aspirations going forward.

Since reuniting in the beginning of the year, Kudermetova and Dzalamidze have played in three Grand Slams, going as far as the second round in Wimbledon, where they were beaten 1-6, 3-6 by the third-seeded pair of Latisha Chan and Martina Hingis. Grand Slams remain the goal for the pair, and their sights are currently set on qualifying for the Australian Open in January, with their victory in Mumbai coming as a major boost for their attempts to qualify.

"We're going to try to play together as much as possible. Our goal is to get into the Australian Open. We need a few more points together to be safe and qualify, so we will be playing a few more matches as a pair this season. Once that's done, we'll keep practising and try to prepare for next year," concluded Kudermetova.

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Updated Date: Nov 05, 2018 17:23:09 IST