Their match went for 22 minutes longer than the Men’s final won by Novak Djokovic. For three hours and 18 minutes, Mirra Andreeva and Alina Korneeva fought out the Junior Girls’ final of the Australian Open.
And they played in the heat of the day, 34°C, unlike the men who played their final in the cool of an evening.
Both 15 years of age and from Moscow, so playing under a neutral flag, the finalists are best friends off court.
As Korneeva says, “I love her so much. She’s my girl, my person that I can say everything to her.” But as she also acknowledges, “Of course, I can’t give to her the points, we are the opponents on the court”.
Eventually, Korneeva won 6-7(2) 6-4 7-5.
As a measure of how close the contest was, there were 38 deuces.
Both players showed they could already command every shot in the book.
They played instinctively with scarcely an error.
The first set was claimed by Andreeva, seeded 7th, two places higher than her friend (and this year’s runner up in the Traralgon warm-up event).
She rushed through a tiebreak, allowing Korneeva only two points during it.
Leading 5-4 in the second set, having just won what would be the longest game in the match, with seven deuces, Korneeva broke to split the score at one set each.
In the third set, Korneeva broke twice to go up 4-1 before Andreeva began to turn it round, winning every point in the next two games. She held again to draw level at 4-4.
After a tight game, Korneeva held serve for 5-4.
A fifteen point game followed as Korneeva tried to claim the championship, but couldn’t convert two break points that would have handed it to her.
After five deuces, Andreeva held serve with the help of a ball that caught the top of net and trickled over to be unreachable for her opponent.
That unluckiness seemed to spur Korneeva on. She held and then broke Andreeva to love.
As the players met at the net, Andreeva was distraught.
Perhaps she was most upset by how the match she’d battled so hard for ended – with a double fault and then not winning a point in the final game.
Korneeva embraced her at length and offered consoling words.
Afterward the trophy presentation, former player Casey Dellacqua, who lost seven women’s doubles Grand Slam finals, went over to the sobbing Andreeva’s chair to advise and encourage her.
Meanwhile Korneeva’s heavily strapped calf and stomach injury were put out of mind by the thrill of her victory.
It’s easy to believe her forecast, “I hope, I know, that we will have a lot of good matches in the future.”
Title photo by Peter Dovgan/UK Sports Pics Ltd