Australian tennis star Ashleigh Barty has fallen a win short of crowning her triumphant grand slam season with a second straight US Open doubles title.
Barty and Victoria Azarenka lost 7-5 7-5 to third seeds Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens in Sunday’s final in New York.
Australia’s French Open champion had been bidding to become the first player to claim back-to-back women’s doubles titles at Flushing Meadows in 12 years.
But the 23-year-old can instead console herself in the knowledge she’ll regain the world No.1 singles ranking on Monday after being unable to convert their clear dominance into victory over Sabalenka and Mertens.
Barty and Azarenka, both singles grand slam champions, blew a 3-1 lead in the first set and then twice dropped serve from 40-15 up in the second.
They especially rued not being able to convert any of four break points after Mertens was trailing love-40 on serve at 3-4 in the eighth game of the second set.
“A few games we lost from 40-15 up, a couple of missed opportunities with volleys. There’s probably half a dozen points, maybe even less, that would turn a match,” Barty said.
“But they’re the what-ifs that we can’t worry about and can’t stress about. I think we still have to celebrate the fact that we’ve had a hell of a tournament.”
Despite the defeat, Barty remains in strong contention to become the first player to qualify for both the singles and doubles at the WTA’s season-ending championships in China since Karolina Pliskova in 2016.
Barty is the only player to have secured her entry in singles and is now in ninth spot with Azarenka in the Race to Shenzhen, which features the top eight doubles pairings of the year.