Spaniard, Argentine pair remain at No. 1

Updated: January 30, 2004, 6:05 AM ET
Reuters

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Top-ranked Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez added to their growing list of doubles titles when they claimed their first Australian Open on Friday.

Spaniard Ruano Pascual and Argentine Suarez easily accounted for a slowing-starting Russian pair of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Likhovtseva 6-4, 6-3 in only 75 minutes on Rod Laver Arena center court.

The victory was their fifth Grand Slam women's doubles title.

It was a first success in Melbourne for Ruano Pascual and Suarez, who came desperately close to winning the title last year only to fall in three sets to Venus and Serena Williams.

"Last year we lost the final, so it's more special," Ruano Pascual said.

"The special thing for us is playing together," she added.

The two right-handers can now add the Australian title to their two French Open and two U.S. Open crowns.

The Russians struggled with their service games throughout the match, Likhovtseva handing Ruano Pascual and Suarez the first service break in the third game of the first set.

Ruano Pascual and Suarez were a model of consistency and picked off many easy points at the net from indecisive groundstrokes by the Russians.

Likhovtseva surrendered her serve again in the opening game of the second set and once more four games later to hand Ruano Pascual and Suarez a commanding 4-1 lead.

Ruano Pascual served for the match in the eighth game but nerves crept in and she netted a volley on the final point to give back one of their service breaks.

But 28-year-old Likhovtseva was again unable to hold her serve in the next game, with Kuznetsova netting a backhand on Ruano Pascual and Suarez's second match point to hand them the match and the title.

"We have a really good feeling between us. Our combination is really good and we know each other for a long time on the court, that helps a lot," Suarez said.

Ruano Pascual and Suarez were eager to make up for the three Grand Slam finals they lost last year.

After they were beaten by the Williams sisters -- who did not defend their Melbourne title -- Pascual and Suarez also lost the French and Wimbledon doubles finals to Kim Clijsters and Ai Sugiyama before claiming the U.S. Open doubles crown.

Clijsters and Sugiyama also did not play this year.

Ruano Pascual and Suarez completed their task in decisive style -- the world No. 1 pair won all six matches in Melbourne without dropping a set.

They vowed to play together for the rest of the year in a bid to retain their top doubles ranking.