A rain-interrupted day three at the Australian Open saw top seeds toppled and a hometown celebration as the doubles titles and quads final were decided.
Fortunately, the weather cooperated to allow both finals to finish before rain descended on the city.
The men’s doubles final definitely came across as a deja-vu moment as this marked the fourth consecutive Grand Slam that the top-seeded team of Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid of Great Britain played for the title against the second-seeded team of Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer of France.
In the big picture, the head-to-head between the two teams favored Houdet and Peifer, who held a 10-5 lead. Ahead of this Australian Open final, it was Hewett and Reid, however, who enjoyed a 3-1 edge at the majors.
Those numbers obviously changed - Houdet and Peifer lead 11-5, while Hewett and Reid are at 3-2 at the Slams as the French pairing prevented Hewett and Reid from winning a third-straight Grand Slam title with a surprisingly easy 6-4 6-2 win.
“We wanted the match more than them, the title more than them, so we went for it,” said Peifer in French, with Houdet translating.
Hewett and Reid never appeared in synch with each other in the 1 hour, 21 minute match, always seeming to search for their form. They struck an inordinate 30 unforced errors in the match, and dumped six of their nine service games.
“They didn’t really communicate with each other,” said Houdet, of the opponents. “It was really strange. We prefer good battles.
“I was very surprised by the fact that they did so many unforced errors,” Houdet added. “With the no-ad scoring system it made a huge difference in the first set. I prefer the other one (not no-ad scoring).”
According to Houdet, his frequent partnership with Peifer makes for a solid combo.
“I think our team is very complimentary,” Houdet said. “I try to analyse everything and Nico feels everything. Sometimes I have to switch off my brain because he’s faster with the feeling.”
Hewett and Reid were actually on opposite sides of the net in last year's men’s doubles final. Reid partnered Joachim Gerard of Belgium to defeat Hewett and Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina. Last year’s victory provided Reid with a complete set of Grand Slam doubles trophies.
Top seeds triumph in women's draw
The women’s doubles title went to top-seeded Marjolein Buis of the Netherlands and Yui Kamiji of Japan, who posted a 6-0 6-4 win over the second-seeded Dutch duo of Diede de Groot and Aniek Van Koot
“It feels great winning,” Buis said. “When we started the final we wanted to win so we are very happy.
“It’s true we don’t always play together but somehow I feel what she’s going to do,” Buis added. “I know her really well because if I don’t play with her I might play against her, so I know her routine.”
This was a second career Australian Open doubles title for Buis and Kamiji, who also scored the win in 2016 with a 6-2 6-2 decision over the Dutch duo of Jiske Groffioen and Van Koot.
Kamiji won the 2014 and 2015 doubles title here with her frequent partner, Jordane Whiley of Great Britain. Whiley is currently taking a sabbatical as she awaits the birth of her first child next month.
Unforced errors were also the downfall of de Groot and van Koot on Friday, posting 37 in total - 23 on forehands and 10 on backhands.
As the men’s doubles final neared its conclusion the rain began to fall at Melbourne Park. That delayed the planned start of the crucial quad singes round-robin match between Dylan Alcott and Heath Davidson, which was also due to take place on Court 7.
However, a twist of fate – or maybe it was written in the stars on Australia Day – saw Roger Federer’s men’s singles semi-final against Hyeon Chung on Rod Laver Arena end early. Cue the opportunity for Alcott and Davidson – Aussie v Auusie – to showcase wheelchair tennis once again on the Australian Open’s famed centre court.
It was the second occasion that wheelchair tennis has been played on Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open.
Last year’s quad singles final between Alcott and Andy Lapthorne was the first wheelchair tennis match to be played on a Grand Slam centre court.
As he did against Lapthorne 12 months ago, Alcott dominated much of the contest, which still gave the appreciative crowd – which included some faces faces, such as actor Eric Bana and former racing driver Mark Webber – plenty to cheer.
Back-to-back games early in the first set gave Davidson a 2-1 lead, but from thereon Alcott had all the answers and reeled off 11 games in a row to complete his 6-2 6-0 win in 55 minutes.
“I love it out here, thanks to everyone who stayed (to watch). It means the world to me to change the way people perceive people with disabilities. But also to see us as athletes first and foremost, we just happen to be in wheelchairs. To get the opportunity to do that and not only do that but do it with my best mate Heath Davidson it’s a dream come true,” said Alcott, who is aiming to win his fourth Australian Open quad singles title this year.
Alcott’s win means that he will be the one to take on world No.1 David Wagner in Saturday’s final, which will once again see wheelchair tennis back on Rod Laver Arena.
Not only will the sport grace RLA on Saturday, the men’s and women’s singles wheelchair tennis finals will also take place on Margaret Court Arena.
It's guaranteed to be another big day for wheelchair tennis at the first Grand Slam of the year.