How appropriate the pair of Czech Frantisek Cermak and Slovak Filip Polasek were wearing black and blue in the Heineken Open doubles final yesterday in Auckland.
That summed up the bruising they took at the mercy of powerful forehands, smashing net play and subtle lobs from the Austrian designer-stubbled duo Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya who won 6-3, 6-2. The pair did not drop a set during the tournament.
Marach made sure his opponents explored the recesses of the court with scything groundstrokes while Peya marauded at the net. They regularly advanced to the net as a dominant duo, building a temporary wall spanning most of the court.
The Czech and Slovak combo did not help themselves. Cermak (in black) had a poor service game (the third of the second set) where he belted a ball out of the stadium in frustration, increasing the workload of the ball retrievers.
There were few moments of parity, with the rally for 30-30 in the fourth game of the second set a highlight. The players demonstrated all the nuances of doubles where scramble and innovation were the watchwords.
Marach says it was sound preparation for the Australian Open: "Our service game was dominant and we nailed the deciding points. It was an improvement for us because I was injured in December and in Brisbane [their first tournament of the year]we lost in the first round. We needed this week to get our rhythm after practising the basics in the lead-up."
Auckland's weather, a regular performer over the past fortnight, wasn't to be forgotten either as the players went off briefly for a rain delay at 2.30pm.