Tennis

Russians win women's doubles title

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)

With singles play on their minds, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva nearly forgot to sign up in time for doubles at the Australian Open.

The Russians were lucky they got in under the wire. On Friday, they rallied to beat the Italian duo of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 to win the women's doubles championship.

''We focus on singles. Sometimes I go to a Grand Slam, for example, and I don't know if I'm going to play or not in doubles,'' said Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion. ''And here, actually I forgot and she forgot that it's a Monday close (for registration). It's not our main goal. I was giving it a thought and I said, 'OK, let's play.'''

Kuznetsova and Zvonareva are known more for their successes in singles - both have been ranked as high as No. 2 in the world - but they're no strangers to doubles play. Kuznetsova captured the 2005 Australian Open title with partner Alicia Molik and Zvonareva won the 2006 U.S. Open title with Nathalie Dechy.

They rarely play with one another, however. The last time they teamed up was at last year's French Open when they lost in the second round.

Errani and Vinci, meanwhile, have been playing together off and on for a couple years. They've won five titles together and reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open last year - their best previous Grand Slam result.

The Italians started off strongly in Friday's final, breaking the Russians four times to take the opening set. But they only converted one of 13 break chances in the rest of the match, wasting five break points in the final game of the third set alone when Kuznetsova was serving for the match.

''I think we had chances in the beginning of the second set. We lost three games with 15-40 when they were serving. Also in the last game, we had some balls to make the break but we didn't make it. It happens,'' said Errani, who also made the quarterfinals in singles. ''I think we played a good tournament.''

Kuznetsova and Zvonareva are the first unseeded pair to win the Australian Open women's doubles title since Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko did it in 2008.

Now that they've have captured a major together, will they put more emphasis on doubles - particularly in an Olympic year?

Zvonareva said they haven't made any firm plans yet.

''If we're fit enough to compete in singles and doubles, I'm sure we would like to do it. But we won't sacrifice I think our singles to play doubles,'' she said.

''It will all depend on how we're feeling. The most important is to feel good, to stay injury free.''

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