ISTANBUL, Turkey - When two of the WTA's most accomplished veterans finally joined forces for the first time in April, everybody knew big things were in the wings. Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond wrapped up a breakthrough year at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, capturing their fourth title in their last six events with a 64 64 win on Sunday over Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik.
Both former No.1s and multiple Grand Slam champions, Huber and Raymond came together for the first time at Charleston in April. It took some time for their talents to truly shine through - they went titleless in their first 11 tournaments together - but since August they have been nearly unbeatable, losing in the quarterfinals of Cincinnati and the semifinals of Beijing but winning Toronto, the US Open, Tokyo and now the year-end finale.
Seeded No.2 in Istanbul, they rallied from a set down and 3-6 in the match tie-break to beat Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta in the semifinals, 46 63 107, then recorded a 64 64 win over No.1 seeds Peschke and Srebotnik in the final, losing three straight games from 64 31 but regrouping and winning three straight games of their own to finish it. They fell short on their first two match points but Huber closed it out with a backhand volley at Srebotnik's body.
"At the end of the day we knew the winner would be the more aggressive team," Raymond said. "We had to take it to the net. They're too good a team for us to wait for them to take charge. We just stuck together and stuck to it."
Huber and Raymond lost handily in their only previous meeting with Peschke and Srebotnik, a 59-minute, 63 60 rout in the final of Eastbourne in June.
"The first part of the season is long forgotten," Huber said. "We've worked very hard and have learned a lot about our own character. We're enjoying the hard work a lot. This is a fantastic moment right now."
Huber now has three year-end titles (winning twice with Cara Black in 2007 and 2008) and Raymond now has four (winning once with Rennae Stubbs in 2001 and twice with Samantha Stosur in 2005 and 2006). Raymond is the second player to win this title with three different partners (Lindsay Davenport won with Mary Joe Fernandez in 1996, Jana Novotna in 1997 and Natasha Zvereva in 1998).
Huber now has 48 WTA doubles titles to her name; Raymond has 74.
What's next for the all-American, all-veteran, all-star team? "We're going to take some much-needed time off then get ready for Australia," Raymond said. "Every tournament we play we want to win, so Sydney, that's our goal."
Peschke and Srebotnik were both seeking their first year-end titles. They were runners-up last year too, to Dulko and Pennetta. They reached this year's final with a straight set win over Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova.