Photo: Miami Open

Just two games away from defeat, Ottawa’s Gaby Dabrowski and New Zealand-born Erin Routliffe found their best tennis when they needed it, rallying for a 6-7, 6-4, 10-4 victory over Americans Asia Muhammad and Alycia Parks to advance to the doubles final of the Miami Open.

Down but never out, the reigning US Open champions amped up their aggressive net game, and shifted momentum to turn the tide, dismissing the talented American tandem to reach their first WTA 1000 final of 2024.

In a showdown of contrasting game styles, the match opened with seven consecutive holds, before the American pairing finally made inroads on Erin Routliffe’s serve, promptly breaking to love.

Dabrowski and Routliffe were quick to respond, using a series of deep lob returns and benefitting from a slew of errors from Parks to break back and get the first set on even terms, eventually pushing matters to a tiebreak. It was the Americans that dictated play in the breaker, as Parks ripped a pair of clean forehand passing shot winners, while Muhammad kept the Canadian-Kiwi duo at bay with precise spot serving to secure the tight opening set 7-6(4) in 50 minutes.

Early in the second, the American tandem wriggled out of a tough service game by saving three break points. Parks again would deliver punishing blows with her forehand wing at 2-all, leading to a break of Routliffe’s serve.

The Canadian-Kiwi duo would not see another opportunity until 3-4 on Muhammad’s serve. At 30-all, Dabrowski hit a beautiful drop volley winner to produce a break point chance, and this time the pair converted, levelling the set at 4-4, with Gaby hitting a sharp backhand volley out of the reach of an outstretched Parks. It proved to be the key moment of the match; the team rode the bout of confidence with a dominant hold of serve before breaking the big-serving Parks for the first time in the match to steal the second set, 6-4.

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In deciding the match super tiebreak, momentum stood firmly in the hands of the Canadian-Kiwi pair. Routliffe flashed some imperious defensive skills early, fending off two swinging backhand volleys from Parks to steal a mini break at the change of ends, as she and Dabrowski led 4-2.

A perfectly timed backhand return winner at 6-3 from Dabrowski would provide more than enough cushion for the energized team, as they coasted to a 10-4 score-line in the match tiebreak to secure their spot in the championship. While Parks and Muhammad looked to control play with their heavy weighted groundstrokes, Dabrowski and Routliffe effectively took time and space away, with their imposing net skills. In a match of razor thin margins, the final point tally stood as 69-68 in favour of Dabrowski and Routliffe.

The win also avenges a loss to Muhammad just over two weeks prior, who, partnered with Ena Shibahara of Japan, defeating the pairing 7-6, 2-6, 12-10 at Indian Wells in the round of 16.

With the victory, Dabrowski advances to her 32nd career WTA doubles final, while Routliffe is into her 13th. It’s first finals appearance for the team since winning the Zhengzhou Open back in October 2023. They’ll aim for their third career doubles crown as a pairing this weekend.