WHAT HAPPENED: Before the start of the US Open men’s doubles championship match on Saturday, featuring the well-traveled teams of Jamie Murray and John Peers against Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, there was one thing that was certain.
For the winning team it would be their first US Open and Grand Slam crown, after having come up just short in previous major finals.
Add one more milestone to the afternoon, as the No. 12-seeded pair of Herbert and Mahut beat the No. 8 seeds, 6-4, 6-4, to become the first French team to win the crown.
“I am speechless now,” Mahut said during the on-court ceremony after the 69-minute match in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Mahut and Herbert had paired up in 2014 and opened this season by reaching the Australian Open final and later winning at Queen’s Club in June.
“We worked so hard for so long to win this type of tournament. Before the match, I said let’s go for it,” said Mahut.
A good doubles match ended on a great point. With all four players at the net, Herbert hit a brilliant backhand-volley winner down the middle, splitting Murray and Peers. Mahut, 33, dropped on the court in wonder, hands to his head, before quickly getting up to embrace his 24-year-old partner.
Herbert was the best player on the court in this match. On his serve, he had few worries, pounding in big deliveries and following them up with crisp volleys and big overheads. On his returns, he was equally sharp off both sides.
In the last game, Herbert single-handedly put Murray in a 0-40 hole and down triple championship point. On the first point, he hit an overhand winner. On the second, he scored with a sharp two-handed backhand passing winner. On the third, he hit a crisp backhand volley that Murray could not return.
The opening set went the Frenchmen's way on the strength of a service break in the 10th game. Peers fell behind 0-30 on a double fault and a Herbert return winner. The Australian then missed a backhand volley wide. On the first set point, his Scottish partner pushed a forehand volley over the baseline.
There was very little to distinguish the teams. The French team converted two of seven break points, while Murray and Peers were 0-5. The winners made 71 percent of first serves, winning 87 percent of the points. Murray and Peers, finalists at Wimbledon this year, were a little less on target, making 69 percent of first serves and winning 71 percent of the points.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: Unlike singles, where a small cadre of players led by the “Big Four” of Novak Djovokic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, have regularly dominated the Grand Slam championships, the doubles competition has been wide open. Herbert and Mahut are the ninth different team to win the last nine Grand Slam crowns. In this tournament, both the top two seeded teams of Bob and Mike Bryan and Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo were knocked out in the opening round.
The champions won $570,00, and the runners-up split $270,000.
QUESTION: Herbert and Mahut are sure to move up in the Emirates ATP Doubles Race standings. Will they be the favorites now at the season-finale?