ROME, Italy — Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had only played together once before teaming up at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, reaching the 2020 Prague quarterfinals.
That didn’t stop the unseeded last-minute scratch pairing from pulling off a series of unlikely comebacks to walk away with the title. In the first round, they saved one match point to beat No.5 seeds Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula 5-7, 6-2, [11-9]. In the semifinals, they came from 5-2 down in the second set and fended off a whopping four match points to take out No.3 seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs. And they capped their run off by coming from a set down in the final to deny No.2 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos 1-6, 6-4, [10-7].
Kudermetova and Pavlyuchenkova spoke to WTA Insider after their win at the Foro Italico.
WTA Insider: How did your partnership come about, and how quickly did you feel comfortable with each other on court?
Kudermetova: In the last moment I asked Nastya. I was supposed to play with Elise Mertens, but she pulled out.
Pavlyuchenkova: I personally felt good since the first match. For me personally, I was focused on every match because I play less doubles, and this year I didn’t play any. So I was a bit nervous in terms of how I could help Veronika, because she’s a very good doubles player. That was my first goal. And I just told her to say thanks to Elise for not coming to this event — I got lucky.
WTA Insider: How did you deal with that dynamic of Veronika being very experienced and successful in doubles, while Nastya hasn’t played a huge amount of it in her career?
Kudermetova: Well, I think Nastya should play a lot more doubles. She’s Olympic mixed doubles champion, she does a lot of good things in doubles. From the very first point I felt comfortable playing with her.
Pavlyuchenkova: It’s very tricky, because you want to help, you don’t want to make it worse. Because sometimes there can be two very good players on court, but they don’t match and they don’t click.
Kudermetova: They don’t communicate.
Pavlyuchenkova: The energy is off. And from the first round we had a really tough draw, which I was surprised by. It was seeds, seeds, seeds and very good players. We needed to be comfortable right away.
WTA Insider: You saved five match points in total, across two separate matches, en route to the title. Can you remember how you managed to escape them?
Kudermetova: I think we just tried to fight til the end, it didn’t matter what the score was.
Pavlyuchenkova: I remember the first match point we faced [against Gauff and Pegula], it was on Veronika’s serve. I crossed and hit a short dropshot. I swear it was instinct. I didn’t prepare this in my head. I just did it in the moment. She served, and I went without thinking. In tennis that happens a lot, when it’s just instinct. Maybe I was too scared, and that’s why I went for the ball! But that worked perfectly.
WTA Insider: How did you complement each other in terms of character? Nastya, you often show your heart on your sleeve; while Veronika, you seem to keep things under wraps more.
Kudermetova: It’s a lot of emotions inside!
Pavlyuchenkova: It helped me today [in the final] – I can lose it quickly. I can be up and down and at some point I can lose it and go crazy. But because Veronika was focused and positive, I said to myself, OK, you’re not alone. Just deal with your temper inside. I was trying to be a mirror, trying to be in the same pitch as her.
WTA Insider: Both of you are successful in singles and doubles. How do you go about balancing them and setting priorities?
Pavlyuchenkova: I entered doubles here because I need match play [coming back from a knee injury]. I actually like to play doubles and I would like to play more, but unfortunately my knee doesn’t let me, usually.
Kudermetova: Sometimes you play really well doubles and singles not very well. Then you start to play singles better and doubles not really well. I try to mix it, but of course I am focusing on singles and the doubles just helps me practice, the ways I can improve.
WTA Insider: Are you planning to continue your partnership now you’re Rome champions?
Kudermetova: Not at Roland Garros. Elise is coming back.
Pavlyuchenkova: I was making a joke just now, this is the second and last time we play. We’re finishing on this nice note. But we will see, maybe once Elise is injured again I will jump in, if Veronika will take me.