Lyudmyla Kichenok’s Wimbledon mixed doubles final experience was one of her most significant moments
It took almost a decade for the Ukrainian 30-year-old to earn the opportunity to compete for a Grand Slam title. Given the significance of her most impressive central performance in her homeland, it was under extra pressure. With Mate Pavić by her side, Kichenok played the match of her life on Centre Court to win Wimbledon 2023 mixed doubles.
In Pavić, Kichenok had an experienced partner. At 30, the Croat entered The Championships in 2023 with five Grand Slam doubles trophies. Countryman Nikola Mektić won the Wimbledon 2021 Gentleman’s Doubles title. With that experience, the No.7 seeds defeated Belgian-Chinese duo Joran Vliegen and Yi Xu in a superb-quality doubles final 6-4, 6-7(11), 6-3. For two-and-a-half sets, there was just one break of serve separating the two teams, China’s Xu registering that blip in the match’s seventh game. Pavić and Kichenok needed it to claim the first set in 36 minutes.
But in their debut pairing at The Championships, they discovered a momentum that Xu later described as “magic”. Two-time defending Wimbledon mixed doubles champions Neal Skupski and Desirae Krawczyk were among the high-profile opponents the unseeded pair defeated on the way to the final; another prestigious win seemed possible when they saved a match point in the second set tie-break.
With both teams competing at such a high level through the third set, it was clear the slightest dip would eventually influence the outcome. The turning point came when Xu dropped serve in the eighth game; Pavić was solid as he had been for the match, and Kichenov fittingly secured victory with an overhead. Pavić described the “incredible feeling” of adding a sixth Grand Slam trophy at the All England Club. Vliegen and Yu, meanwhile, seem sure to revive their last-minute partnership.
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