Rajeev Ram of the US and Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic celebrate after defeating Australia's Samantha Stosur and Matthew Ebden in the mixed doubles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Krejcikova and Ram win 2nd Australian Open title in 3 years

MELBOURNE, Australia — Barbora Krejcikova and Rajeev Ram have made the perfect odd-year pairing at the Australian Open, adding the 2021 mixed doubles title to the one they shared in 2019.

For Krejcikova, it’s three in a row.

She and Ram were in control from the start in a 6-1, 6-4 win Saturday over Australian wild cards Matt Ebden and Sam Stosur.

It was a remarkable run, particularly considering Krejcikova and Ram were among the 72 players forced into a hard lockdown for at least two weeks during quarantine after passengers on their charter flights tested positive to COVID-19 after arriving in Australia.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Krejcikova said. “I’m so grateful that we were able to get back together.”

Krejcikova won her first Australian title with Ram two years ago and with Croatia’s Nikola Mektic last year.

“We had a year off as a team, but she didn’t have a year off — she won this thing last year, so that’s three years running for her,” Ram said. “Amazing job. Pleasure to play with her, always.”

It was a virus that temporarily broke up the successful partnership a month prior to the 2020 Australian Open.

“I was sick here in December that year and I didn’t think it was a good idea to try to play mixed doubles as well,” said Ram, who won the men’s doubles title last year with Joe Salisbury.

That puts the veteran American in contention for a doubles double at Melbourne Park. Ram and Salisbury will be trying to defend the doubles title in Sunday’s final against Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and Slovakia’s Filip Polasek.

Krejcikova missed her chance at a double when she and fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova lost the women’s doubles final on Friday to second-seeded Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka.

She said she put that out of her mind as soon as possible, aiming for another title.

Krejcikova and Ram faced only a single break point and needed less than an hour to beat Ebden and Stosur, who were each previous winners of the title but with different partners.

The Australians didn’t win a game until Ebden held in the fifth, and lost the first set in just 22 minutes.

Fans, who had stayed after Naomi Osaka’s win over Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final hoping to witness a home Slam triumph, vocally tried to lift Ebden and Stosur. But it was to no avail.

Krejcikova said her partnership with Ram works because of their approach to the game.

“I just feel we understand each other on and off the court,” she said. “He’s just really easygoing and it works out.”

Krejcikova and Ram kept in touch during the quarantine period, when they weren’t allowed to leave their rooms for any reason. All but the 72 players in hard lockdown were allowed out for up to five hours per day for practice during the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

“It’s really amazing what we actually achieved,” Krejcikova said. “I just feel really grateful and happy that even, you know, we had to go for this hard quarantine and stuff, it just worked out well and maybe that was the key to win the tournament … like, who knows?”

Ram said he spent time in the lockdown checking in with friends because it was “obviously a tough situation.”

His approach after coming out of lockdown was simple.

“Don’t overdo it,” he said. “I have played tennis for — I’m 36, I played tennis for 34 years — I’m not going to forget how to do it in 14 days.

“It was just a matter of trying to make sure that physically and mentally you feel like you’re in the right spot.”

___

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Bruce Matthews, The Associated Press

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