Photo: Eisele/Giubilo/ZimmerLucie Hradecka and Andrea Hlavackova (CZE)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Czech No. 4 seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka are through to the women’s doubles final at the Olympic Tennis Event after upsetting top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 61 76(2) in 1 hour 38 minutes on No.1 Court.
Hlavackova and Hradecka came into the match as underdogs, but the Czech duo produced their best performance of the tournament to end the gold medal hopes of the world No. 1 ranked pair from USA.
In the only previous meeting between the two pairs, at last year’s grass court event in Eastbourne, Huber and Raymond claimed a straight sets victory on their way to a runner-up finish, but there was never any sign of a similar result today.
Hlavackova and Hradecka, who have doubles rankings of No. 12 and No. 8 respectively, started well and broke to take a 3-1 lead, before a second break two games later allowed them to serve out the first set 6-1 in 34 minutes.
The contrasting style of the two pairs was already evident. The Czechs were more comfortable with one player at the back pounding groundstrokes, while the Americans looked to rush the net at every opportunity.
The game plan of the Czechs paid dividends in the early exchanges, but as the match wore on the rallies started to lengthen and it suited the Americans, who had more chance to work their way into the points.
Hlavackova and Hradecka broke in the fifth game of the second set and soon found themselves serving for a place in the final at 5-4. However, Huber and Raymond weren’t finished and dragged themselves level after converting their fourth break point.
The Americans then held to pile the pressure on the Czechs, who slipped to 30-40 as they served to stay in the set at 6-5. A long rat-a-tat-tat rally ensued as both pairs produced reaction shots that defied belief, but the set point was saved when a Huber volley fell just wide.
Two points later, Hlavackova and Hradecka held serve to send the second set into a tiebreak, in which they immediately forged ahead and kept going. The Americans quickly found themselves facing four match points at 6-2, and Hlavackova put paid to any ideas of another comeback by threading a winning return down the line.
"It's amazing feeling for both of us," said Hlavackova. "It was the biggest pressure on today's match - now we're clear to get a medal. I think we just want to enjoy this moment for today and think about the finals tomorrow."
The Czechs, both playing at their first Olympics, now await the winner of the other semifinal between Serena and Venus Williams of USA and Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova of Russia. That match will be played later today on Centre Court, while the final is scheduled for Sunday.
The Olympics isn’t over for Huber and Raymond. They will also be watching the second semifinal with a keen eye to learn who their opponents will be in the bronze medal play-off, also scheduled for Sunday.
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