Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski falls in Wimbledon women’s doubles final

Czech Republic's Barbora Strycova, top right, and Taiwan's Su-Wei Hsieh in action against Canada's Gabriela Dabrowski and China's Yifan Xu in the women's doubles final match of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Sunday, July 14, 2019. (Ben Curtis/AP)

WIMBLEDON, England — Gabriela Dabrowski fell one victory short of her first Grand Slam title in women’s doubles on Sunday.

The 27-year-old Ottawa native and partner Xu Yifan of China were defeated by the in-form team of Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic and Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei 6-2, 6-4 in the final.

The victory means Strycova, who reached her first career Grand Slam singles semifinal this Wimbledon at the age of 33, will become the new No. 1 in women’s doubles when the updated WTA Tour rankings come out on Monday.

"Overall, a very good two weeks. We both played well at the same time in the majority of our matches. But today was very disappointing — especially my service game that we lost in the first set. That was pretty crucial," Dabrowski said.

For Dabrowski, it was one step further than she and Xu went a year ago, when they lost a 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 heartbreaker in the semifinals to Nicole Melichar of the U.S. and Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic.

On this occasion, they faced a crafty, veteran pair, both of whom have been top-30 players in singles as well.

Strycova and Hsieh had defeated them 6-3, 6-1 in the final of the big Madrid tournament in early May, on clay.

On the grass, the pair had an answer for every question Dabrowski and Xu asked.

In the first set, Strycova and Hsieh appeared to know where their opponents were going to direct the ball — before they even knew themselves.

"Overall, I think we threw at lot at them, and they responded really well to most things," Dabrowski said. "That’s kind of how it felt also when we played them in the Madrid final, too. At least today was a little bit closer."

They were forced to hit shots they don’t often hit, from positions on the court where they don’t often venture. The lobs from Hsieh, in particular, were extremely effective in preventing the Canadian-Chinese pair from executing at the net.

After the four hour, 57-minute men’s singles final that saw Novak Djokovic overcome Roger Federer 13-12 in the final-set tiebreak, the majority of the Centre Court fans had had their fill of tennis. Still, there was a small but appreciative crowd on hand by the end of the match, as the All-England Club allowed anyone on the grounds to enter Centre Court.

And they were treated to some spectacular and entertaining women’s doubles for large portions of the second set.

But it felt at times as though Dabrowski and Xu had to play at a spectacular level just to win a point, never mind a game.

The women’s doubles final had been scheduled to be third on Centre Court Saturday, following the women’s singles final and the men’s doubles final.

That is the typical Saturday schedule at Wimbledon. But given the 2 p.m. start time for the women’s singles final, it’s a tight squeeze.

The men’s doubles final ended 13-12 in the fifth set and lasted three minutes short of five hours. But the women only learned at nearly 8:15 p.m. Saturday evening that, after waiting all day, their match would be postponed.

The men’s match ended about a half-hour later under the lights, after the roof over Centre Court was closed following the fourth set. But there is an 11 p.m. neighbourhood curfew for the lights.

"The scheduling decisions were sub-par for such a world-class tournament — the biggest tournament in the world. I’d say," Dabrowski said.

Longtime tournament referee Andrew Jarrett, who is retiring after this Wimbledon, came to the two teams Saturday night after the men’s doubles split the first two sets.

"He said they were deliberating for an hour and a half or two hours about what to do," Dabrowski said, adding that the players were completely in the dark while those deliberations went on.

"None of us had any idea. We were all so surprised. And none of us wanted to be cancelled. We all wanted to play. So that’s a bit disappointing," Dabrowski said.

"If they could have cancelled us earlier, we could have played earlier today — or even on Court 1."

Still, Dabrowski will take home $267,000 between the women’s doubles final and the third-round result in the mixed doubles with Mate Pavic of Croatia.

Earlier in the day, Liam Draxl of Newmarket, Ont., and American partner Govind Nanda were beaten by the top-seeded Czech team of Jonas Forejtek and Jiri Lehecka 7-5, 6-4 in the boys’ doubles final.

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