Yan-Jie win women's doubles title

Updated on Jan 27, 2006 03:25 PM IST

The Chinese pair won the country's first-ever Grand Slam title, grinding top seeds L Raymond and S Stosur.

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None | ByAgence France-Presse, Melbourne

China's Yan Zi and Zheng Jie won the country's first-ever Grand Slam title on Friday, grinding down top seeds Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur to win the Australian Open women's doubles title.

It was a sterling come-from-behind victory by the 12th seeds and the perfect Chinese New Year present for a country considered by many to be the future of tennis.

They had looked out for the count after losing confidence to see the first set slip away in 41 minutes, but regrouped and regained composure to take the second set on a tiebreak, saving two championship points.

They doggedly held on to win the third set for a memorable 2-6 7-6 (9/7) 6-3 win in 2 hours 15 minutes.

It was the first time anyone from China has won a Grand Slam final in any discipline and capped a breakthrough 12 months in which Yan and Zheng won two other doubles championships, at Hobart and Hyderabad last year.

They reached the semi-final or better at seven tour events last year, cementing China's growing reputation as a tennis force following Sun Tiantian and Li Ting's historic Olympic doubles gold at Athens in 2004.

Along with Sun and Li, Yan and Zheng, who began playing together in Shanghai in 2001, are rising stars, and not just on the doubles circuit. Each of them won a Tour singles title last year.

American Raymond and Australian Stosur used their experience to grind down Yan and Zheng in the opening set, forcing errors and capitalising on the Chinese women's poor serving.

But their confidence crumbled, losing eight games in a row to lose the first set and finding themselves 2-0 down in the second set, facing the prospect of an early end to the match.

Raymond and Stour were proving to be a brick wall, bouncing everything back that was thrown at them but as the rain battered the roof of the Rod Laver Arena, the Chinese women refound their touch.

They held serve and then broke to even it up at 3-3.

They held serve for a 4-3 lead and it went with serve until Zheng was broken to give Raymond and Stosur a 6-5 lead.

Raymond, who has won 50 doubles titles, was odds-on to serve out for the match but she buckled to give Zheng and Yan a glimmer of hope that they grabbed, saving two championship points in the tiebreak to take it to a third set.

Raymond and Stosur, looking to become the first doubles pair in nearly two years to win consecutive Grand Slam titles following their US Open success, were sapped of confidence and couldn't come back.

The Chinese pair raced to a 3-1 lead in the decider, were pegged back to 3-3 before storming to China's greatest-ever tennis success.

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