Finnish-Aussie duo lift first Grand Slam trophy
John Peers ended his home country's Australian Open title drought, as he and Henri Kontinen ousted six-time champions Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 7-5, 7-5 on Saturday at Melbourne Park
The reigning ATP Finals champions took the inside track in returning to The O2 in London, claiming their first Grand Slam title together and improving to an impressive 6-1 in tour-level finals. They dropped just one set en route to the title, edging the Bryans behind 12 aces and three breaks of serve after one hour and 14 minutes.
For Kontinen, it was his maiden major crown in his first final, while Peers lifted his first trophy in his third title match. He previously finished runner-up alongside Jamie Murray at Wimbledon 2015 and the US Open 2015.
"It is an amazing feeling," Peers, who became the first Australian doubles champion at Melbourne Park since Todd Woodbridge in 2001, said. "I was looking through some of the names on the trophy. To be alongside some of the guys and idols I looked up to in the past is something that hasn't sunk in yet. To be able to do that and be a part of what Australian legacy has been with tennis is something I was dreaming of as a child. To be able to do it and hopefully continue to do that is something I will continue to work towards.
"It's a humbling experience and something that I'll never take for granted because, to be able to get here is one step, but to be able to continue to do things in the game, you have to continue to work. You can never settle for what we've done. You've got to continue to work, improve our individual games, and the team will grow with that."
Both teams traded early breaks in the first set, before a sublime volleying display from Kontinen saw the Aussie-Finnish pair snatch the opener 7-5 on their second set point. Kontinen's fast hands at the net proved critical, claiming a pair of volley winners to seal the set after 39 minutes. In the second, neither team came under pressure until the 12th game, when the Bryans faced two match points on their serve. They turned aside the first, but Kontinen and Peers would not be denied their date with destiny. The Aussie struck a stunning lob winner to seal the championship.
"It definitely was one of my great shots on match points," said Peers. "To be able to do it on our second match point was really good. I just tried to play it as another point. Was lucky enough to pull it out, to be honest. It was really nice."
The partnership picked up where it left off in 2016, claiming their 16th win in 17 matches at the tour-level, dating back to their triumph at the Paris Masters last year. They also lifted trophies in Brisbane, Munich, Hamburg and to cap the season at The O2 in London.
"It's a pretty good start," Kontinen exclaimed. "Better than last year. I think we lost second round here last year. Obviously this already puts us in there going towards London and the end of the year. But we'll do the same thing as we did last year."
The Bryan brothers were seeking their 17th Grand Slam doubles title, which would have tied John Newcombe in first place on the all-time list. The Bryans, who own the most major crowns as a team, were also seeking a seventh win at the Australian Open. They previously tasted victory in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. It was their 10th final at Melbourne Park, having also reached the title match in 2004, 2005 and 2012.
For Kontinen, the victory was extra special, becoming the first Finnish player - man or woman - to claim a Grand Slam title in singles or doubles. He rises two spots to World No. 5 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings, while Peers bumps three positions to World No. 6. The tandem improved their FedEx ATP Head2Head lead over the American twins to 3-0. They have yet to relinquish a set, also prevailing at the Paris Masters and ATP Finals last year.