Not only had Mattek-Sands and Safarova never played together before the first Grand Slam of the year, they had never even practiced together.
“Actually, we didn’t even really know which side we were going to play,” Mattek-Sands said. “We started off on the opposite sides, (then) we switched. I think we switched again. It was pretty spur of the moment.”
Chan and Zheng twice served for the second set. Mattek-Sands clinched the match with a backhand to the open court in the tiebreaker.
Mattek-Sands, a 29-year-old from Minnesota known for her adventurous tennis outfits and multi-hued hair, was out for six months last year while recovering from hip surgery and wasn’t sure she would play doubles at Melbourne Park.
“In the offseason it was literally, ‘Let’s play the Australian Open.’ I know some teams kind of plan for the year a little bit,” she said. “For me, you know, I want to get a chance to see how my hip felt, see how my body felt.”
The two came together in the offseason because Safarova’s coach is friends with Mattek-Sands’ husband, Justin.
“I had some partners where it took really a long time to find a good combination and to play well, but I think we pretty much (clicked) right away, we played well,” said Safarova, a Czech player who has had more success in singles, reaching the Wimbledon semifinals last year.
Even though they didn’t know each other’s playing styles, they bonded in the locker room over tea each morning.
“We would get our Earl Grey,” Mattek-Sands said.
“Chilling,” Safarova added.
It’s the first Grand Slam trophy for the Czech player. Mattek-Sands, who received treatment on her right hamstring several times during the match, won the 2012 Australian Open mixed doubles title with Horia Tecau of Romania.
The match started about 4:30 p.m. locally, just after midnight on the East Coast of the United States, and finished well into the overnight hours.
Asked whether they were dancing in the streets of her hometown of Neenah, Wisconsin, Mattek-Sands said she wasn’t sure.
“But I know a lot of my family was up,” she said. “I just FaceTimed them all. It was 3 in the morning, 4 in the morning there and everybody was up in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Arizona, Florida. So it was pretty cool.”
But it was more notable for an incredible behind-the-back volley by Paes that will likely go down as one of the shots of the tournament.
The Indian player’s shot came in the eighth game when he and Hingis were in the latter stages of a 21-shot rally.
Hsieh hit a ball to the left of Paes, who was standing near the net, and it seemed destined to be a winner. But the right-handed Paes flicked his racket behind his back and somehow kept a volley in play during a point that he won with his subsequent shot to level the opening set at 4-4.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.