Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!
The Australian Open men’s doubles final will be an all-Australian affair, after semi-final wins from Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, and Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell. The unseeded finalists upset the third and second seeds, respectively, on Thursday in Melbourne.
Kyrgios and Kokkinakis delighted a packed Rod Laver Arena by knocking off Horacio Zeballos and Marcel Granollers, 7-6(4), 6-4. Playing at the same time on Margaret Court Arena, their compatriots upset 2020 AO champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-3, 7-6(9).
In a charged atmosphere in Laver, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis—neither of whom had previously been beyond the third round in doubles at a Slam—delighted a packed crowd with a victory full of substance and style.
“I’ve played a lot of singles matches around the globe with amazing atmospheres,” Kyrgios reflected in the on-court interview. “This week with Thanasi, playing in front of you, nothing beats this. This is insane.”
There were no break points and just one deuce in the opening set. A classy behind-the-back stab from Granollers helped drag the second seeds level from 40/0 on the Kyrgios serve, but the Aussies held firm.
A Kyrgios tweener backfired on set point at 6/4 in the tie-break, but a big serve from the crowd favourite put the hammer down for the set.
With the atmosphere nearing fever pitch, the Aussies won the first seven points of the second stanza to create a 0/40 opening on the Granollers serve. The third seeds got back to deuce, but back-to-back Kokkinakis winners—one off each baseline wing—produced the match’s first break of serve.
The third seeds clawed back from 4-1 to 4-4 in the set, but Granollers was broken again to concede the match. It was bedlam when a Kokkinakis topspin lob dropped in, with Kyrgios sprinting to his partner and the pair dropping to the court in celebration.
“When we come out here, it’s all about the crowd, the atmosphere,” Kokkinakis added. “That gets us going. We worry about the tennis second. Playing in front of you guys brings the best out of us, honestly. I don’t know if we’d have this result anywhere else. It’s sick.”
The duo have gone through the first, 15th, sixth and third seeds en route to the title round, while Ebden-Purcell have dismissed the fourth, 13th, 10th and second seeds.
The Margaret Court Arena contest was a rematch of the 2021 US Open quarter-finals, where eventual champions Ram and Salisbury saved four match points and advanced by the slimmest possible margin, 7-6(7), 6-7(6), 7-6(10).
“I didn’t sleep that well the next couple weeks after that, so I’m just glad we got our revenge,” Ebden said post-match. “We thought, ‘It’s our home Slam, our court. We’re Australians.’ And the crowd made a difference yesterday and today… To go through to the finals here is a dream.”
There were no breaks of serve in their US Open meeting, but Ebden-Purcell broke twice in the opening set on Thursday, taking the third and ninth games on break-point double faults from Ram, then Salisbury. There were no break chances for either side in the second, with all the drama saved for the tie-break.
Finishing just before their compatriots in Laver, the Aussies saved four set points and clinched victory on their second match point in the 11-9 tie-break.
“It was a strange one seeing that we broke them in the third game today,” added Purcell. “They definitely lifted their level in the second set, but credit to us. We hung in there in the end. I helped Matty out a little bit when I needed to, and he helped me out when he needed to, and we got through.”
It’s the 23-year-old Purcell’s second career major doubles final. He reached the 2020 Australian Open final alongside Aussie Luke Saville, before losing to Ram and Salisbury. Ebden, 34, had not been beyond the quarter-finals in 29 previous men’s doubles major appearances. He has gone all the way in mixed doubles, winning the 2013 AO title with compatriot Jarmila Gajdosova and reaching the final last year in Australia.
One year ago, the partners were on opposite sides of the net in the Australian Open second round, where Ebden and John-Patrick Smith won an all-Aussie match against Purcell and Saville.
The men’s doubles title match is set for Saturday night in Melbourne, giving both teams a day off for their final preparations.