MELBOURNE, Australia -- The names of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova will soon be inscribed on the Australian Open doubles trophy alongside those of Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, Martina Navratilova, Martina Hingis and the Williams sisters. Which is pretty amazing considering that the first time the newest two champions even practiced together was the day before the tournament.
"I don't know how often it's happened that a first-time pairing has won,'' Mattek-Sands said. "But you get two great players playing together, I think a big part of it is me and Lucie are really good friends. Communication's huge. Whether we were down in a match, up in a match, we were having fun. I think that helps teams really play well.''
The two have been good friends for a while -- Safarova's coach is good friends with Mattek-Sands' husband. They had been playing with different partners over the years, but during this past offseason, they exchanged emails about teaming up.
It was a good move, though their victory wasn't unprecedented by any means. The last time a new pair won a Grand Slam women's doubles championship was at the 2007 US Open when Nathalie Dechy and Dinara Safina won the title.
Mattek-Sands and Safarova beat Yung-Jan Chan and Jie Zheng, who were playing together for the first time since 2013. They had played successfully before, winning one tournament and reaching the semifinals in three others in 2010, including the US Open. They came close here but fell short, losing 6-4, 7-6 (5).
Zheng almost cried after losing, telling Mattek-Sands, "Four times I've been in the final and I haven't won. You couldn't let me get this one?''
Mattek-Sands had an injury-filled season last year that forced her to miss six months with a hip issue. She made up for it Friday, winning roughly twice as much money with this doubles championship as she did all last year.
"We were just looking at all the names that are listed on this,'' Mattek-Sands said of the trophy. "Ours is going to be on there, too. There's a lot of great players on here. It's pretty cool to think we made history, so it's pretty overwhelming.''