Australian duo win doubles title after five-set epic against injury-hit opponent

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Matt Ebden and Max Purcell (right) celebrate victory over Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (Zac Goodwin/PA) (PA Wire)
Matt Ebden and Max Purcell (right) celebrate victory over Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (Zac Goodwin/PA) (PA Wire)

Matt Ebden and Max Purcell kicked off what could be a great weekend for Australian tennis with victory in the men’s doubles final over Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic – who played despite having a broken wrist.

The left-handed Croatian suffered the injury during the semi-finals but decided to contest the final despite not being able to hold the racket with his right hand and having to use a single-handed backhand.

Remarkably, Pavic and fellow Croatian Mektic came agonisingly close to successfully defending their title, leading by two sets to one before losing out on a deciding tie-break 7-6 (5) 6-7 (3) 4-6 6-4 7-6 (2).

Pavic said: “It happened during the semi-finals, in the first set. I had a fracture on the bone. It was tough to handle those two matches. It was tough to play. We were close. It’s a bit frustrating. We gave our best, we gave it a fight and I think we can be very proud of ourselves for those two matches.”

Ebden and Purcell, for whom this is a first grand slam title, have lived dangerously throughout their run, playing five-set matches in all but one round.

The Australian Open runners-up saved match points in the first round and then again in the semi-finals, when top seeds Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram led by two sets to love before having five chances to win in the third-set tie-break.

Mate Pavic (left) played in the final with a broken right wrist (John Walton/PA) (PA Wire)
Mate Pavic (left) played in the final with a broken right wrist (John Walton/PA) (PA Wire)

“I thought we were out of here in the first round,” said Purcell. “Three match points. And we just won Wimbledon. How good’s that.”

Ebden praised Mektic and Pavic, saying: “They almost beat us with an injury. We were very lucky to win. That just shows how great a team they are.”

Nick Kyrgios will hope to follow in his countrymen’s footsteps when he takes on Novak Djokovic in the singles final on Sunday.

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