STUTTGART, Germany & MARRAKECH, Morocco - Some of the world's best doubles teams took the courts of Stuttgart and Marrakech this past week but it was a pair of emerging pairs that prevailed - Mona Barthel and Sabine Lisicki in Stuttgart and Timea Babos and Mandy Minella in Marrakech.
A packed field headed to the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart but it was the German wildcard team of Barthel and Lisicki that came out on top, rolling through their first three rounds and then taking out Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza in a competitive straight-setter in the final, 64 75.
Lisicki took away her second WTA doubles title, having won this title in 2011 with Samantha Stosur.
"It's my second time winning here, and second time as a wildcard as well," Lisicki said. "Mona and I had so much fun during the week. It was our first time playing together and we played very well.
"It's a good omen for me - two years ago when I won this title I went on to play an amazing year."
Barthel won her first WTA doubles title. "We were so lucky to get the wildcard - so then to take our chance and win the whole tournament means a lot," she said. "The crowd was supporting us so well. It was a great atmosphere - we took the energy and just went for it. Hopefully we'll play again soon."
Two of the four best teams in the world were in action in Stuttgart but surprisingly they both fell first round: Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik lost to Mattek-Sands and Mirza; Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina lost to another German wildcard pairing, Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic.
Over at the Grand Prix SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem the favorites also fell early - No.1 seeds Daniela Hantuchova and Anabel Medina Garrigues and No.2 seeds Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone - so it was No.3 seeds Babos and Minella who snuck through, rolling over No.4 seeds Petra Martic and Kristina Mladenovic in the final, 63 61. It was a nice reprieve after all three of their previous rounds went to match tie-breaks - and they faced match point in their last two matches, as well.
Babos and Minella now have two WTA doubles titles together, having also won Bogotá this year; those are Minella's only two WTA doubles titles, while Babos has four WTA doubles titles total, having won Birmingham last year with Hsieh Su-Wei and Monterrey this year alongside Kimiko Date-Krumm.
"We're both very happy to get our second title together," Babos said. "We both enjoy playing doubles with each other a lot, and hopefully we'll have some more good results together in the future."
"We had a really tough week with some really tough matches, and I think this was our best match so far," Minella said. "We played really well today, especially Timea - she did really well out there."
There was a significant move in the upper echelon of the WTA Doubles Rankings, too - Sara Errani rose to No.1, joining her doubles partner Roberta Vinci at the top spot. They are the ninth pair ever to be co-No.1s, after Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs, Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suárez, Raymond and Samantha Stosur, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, Venus Williams and Serena Williams, Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta, Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik and Huber and Raymond.
Errani racks up her sixth week as doubles No.1 this week, while Vinci racks up her 29th week there.