Friends and doubles partners from their junior days, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic dreamt of one day being the best team in the world.
And with their ladies’ doubles semi-final victory on Friday, they stand one match away from etching their names in tennis history as Wimbledon champions.
They advanced to Saturday's final, where they will face No.2 seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, thanks to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Andrea Petkovic and Magdalena Rybarikova – a 57-minute affair played in blazing heat and strong winds.
“Conditions were really terrible out there, really windy,” Mladenovic said. “Even more in doubles ... you really have to be precise, and go for other serves, and go for clean winners and be ready at the net. And that’s what I think we did really well.”
Babos and Mladenovic, a Hungarian-French pairing seeded No.14, certainly handled the conditions and the occasion better than their unseeded opponents.
Petkovic served in the first game only to dish up two double faults, and was broken to love. When the rallies finally arrived, Babos and Mladenovic were coming out on top. They won an entertaining point to break for a 4-1 lead that saw all four players switching sides and scrambling about the court.
The duo – notable for their big serving – piled on the pressure with a service hold to love in the sixth game, and had soon pocketed the opening set in just 21 minutes.
When Mladenovic played a running forehand down the line to help hold for 1-0 to start the second set, it appeared they were on course for a whitewash victory.
Yet Petkovic and Rybarikova, from Germany and Slovakia, put on a more competitive showing from that point on. Rybarikova took a tumble in the third game and that seemed to relax the pair, who giggled about the mishap before going on to break serve for a 2-1 lead.
The points became more physical and games became tighter, with many going to deuce. But the No.14 seeds broke to get the set back on serve, and broke again in the eighth game when Babos, targeting Petkovic at the baseline with backhand blows, suddenly changed direction and fired a shot directly at Rybarikova at net, who missed the reflex volley.
They celebrated loudly, having secured the vital break for a 5-3 lead. And although they began in unconvincing fashion when serving for the match – Mladenovic double faulted, before Babos hit an easy volley into the net for 0-30 – they dug themselves out of trouble. A Rybarikova return error handed them match point, before a Petkovic error wide sealed the victory, prompting Babos and Mladenovic to jump and scream in delight.
“Of course we were so excited at the end of this match... just being in the final of any Grand Slam is something really special, I cannot describe,” Mladenovic said.
“Just talking about this gives me goosebumps. And especially here in Wimbledon. I really feel like it’s the temple of tennis, and emotions and results kind of mean more here.
“In juniors we were winning a lot [in doubles], and we said that one day we wanted to become the best team in the world and win Grand Slams. So hopefully we can.”
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all