Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka will go their separate ways despite winning the Australian Open doubles title on Friday.
The Australian Open title will be the last grand slam doubles crown for some time for the pair, who said they won't play this year's remaining majors together despite their success in Melbourne.
Mertens and Sabalenka, from Belgium and Belarus respectively, were too good for Czech duo Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in Friday's final, winning 6-2 6-3 to claim their second grand slam title and $600,000 in prize money.
The title triumph comes after they also won the US Open crown in 2019, beating Ash Barty and Victoria Azarenka in the final, during their first year as a doubles combination.
But despite their success, the pair revealed they won't play together anymore, with World No.7 Sabalenka wanting to focus her energy on singles.
She was eliminated in the fourth round of the singles event by Serena Williams, while the 16th-ranked Mertens fell to giant-killer Karolina Muchova at the same stage.
"We're not going to play grand slams (in doubles)," 22-year-old Sabalenka said.
"I want to put more focus on singles, so a little bit less doubles.
"I know that doubles, it's not that hard, but it still takes a lot of energy and I just want to save it for singles.
"I just want to try something different this year and see what happens on the grand slams."
Fans were sad to hear the news.
— p-brane (@BraneRunner) February 19, 2021
While not quite an an “era”, we will miss this pairing. Both players focusing on singles will be great for tennis. They are both fine competitors and Sabalenka is on track for a bunch of Slam singles titles for sure. Doubles play has helped with that!
— Nancy Bulkley Ph.D. (@iamnmb) February 19, 2021
Sad decision but one that makes sense given the huge prestige attached to singles. They are two hugely talented players and should be regular features in the latter stages of singles Grand Slams if not winners.
— David Mbewa (@MbewaDavid) February 19, 2021
Dang, that makes me bummed. They’re a fun & successful pair. Glad to see they’ll still play some bigger tournaments. They’re both great singles players, too! Best of luck! #AO2021 #AusOpen #AusOpen2021 #AustralianOpen2021
— Mich (sounds like “Mike”) #WearADamnMask🏳️🌈🇺🇸 (@MichaelPLS) February 19, 2021
— Mhّmd Lfc Abdallah (@MhmdLfcAbdallah) February 19, 2021
Sabalenka and Mertens to continue at non-slams
The pair did say they would continue to team up at some Premier level tournaments including Miami.
The duo took advantage of a shaky serving display by Siniakova, who sent down six double faults in her two service games in the opening set.
She looked to have found her range in the second set to remain in the hunt until the eighth game when she was broken for the third time and was in tears after the match.
Sabalenka and Mertens had too much strike power from the back of the court for the third seeds while Sabalenka also did major damage with her serve.
She tightened up while serving in the final game, missing her first two championship points, but the duo wrapped it up on their fourth chance.
Krejcikova will get another chance at glory, partnering American Rajeev Ram in the final of the mixed doubles against Australians Samantha Stosur and Matt Ebden on Saturday.
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