Herbert, Mahut revel in emotional home triumph

 - Alex Sharp

French pair survive Kazakhstani duo in three sets to claim their second Roland-Garros title together

Nicolas Mahut, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Roland Garros 2021, doubles final© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

With a raucous rendition of ‘La Marseillaise,’ the ardent home support saluted their heroes, as tears filled the eyes of No.6 seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut on Court Philippe-Chartier on Saturday.

The formidable home duo reclaimed their Roland-Garros doubles title with a compelling 4-6, 7-6(1), 6-4 triumph over Kazakhstani surprise package Alexander Bublik and Andrey Golubev.

Their friends and family packed their players' box, along with boys' doubles champions Arthur Fils and Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard, who launched into celebration as Herbert and Mahut fought back from the brink to triumph once again on home soil.

With a second Roland-Garros crown to go with the one they captured together in 2018, the career Grand Slam champions are thrilled to be inspiring the next generation. They are the first French pair in the Open Era to win their home Slam together more than once.

“I think it was just amazing to see them coming to the final and being in the stands. It's been an amazing year for our juniors. We didn't have this for a long time,” declared Herbert, proud of the French renaissance this fortnight.

Luca Van Assche won, four [French players] in the [boys'] semi-finals in the singles. Especially with what happens now in the men's draw, having nobody in the third round, it's just special to have them. 

“If we can help them getting better, if we can have a generation that is amazing in France, we would be so proud of being part of that.”

Waiting before the warm-up, the charismatic Bublik joked with umpire Marijana Veljovic; “I know I’m not supposed to be here… this is a comic situation."

However, Bublik was the talisman alongside veteran Golubev, slicing and dicing with his improvisation skills and angles to propel the underdogs on the cusp of a first ever tour-level doubles trophy.

Singles world No.37 Bublik served for the silverware at 5-4 in the second set, before the home favourites roared back into contention.

“Was amazing feeling at the end. We were so close to lose this one, but we were also so close to lose the semi-final,” explained Mahut, referencing three match points saved in the previous stage.

“At the end we're here with the trophy. It's amazing. With the family, with our wives, sons, it's something that you're lucky when it happens once in your life. This is the second time for us. We could not be any happier tonight.

“Also, it's because we feel like we're back to life, back to normal life. What we felt the last two weeks with the crowd, they were supporting us, amazing, like we never had here before.”

Herbert echoed his partner’s sentiment, particularly emotional to serve out the title with a new family member watching on.

“Maybe the best emotions that I've had in the end by winning this one,” suggested Herbert, as the duo added the Tokyo Olympics is a “big goal” for them this summer.

“Maybe the best support I've had in my whole life for a two-week tournament. That puts you under some extra pressure also because you want to give some wins to the public. The final was terrible for me especially. I was tight the whole match.

“To be able to win this one, as crazy as it was as the guy serving for the match in front of my whole family that I didn't see also in COVID, it's just incredible.

“Also special because now I'm a dad. It's my first Grand Slam that I win as a dad. Having him in the stands with my future wife is incredible.”