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Tennis: India’s Paes lands ‘Martina double’ at Australian Open

Leander Paes won the Australian Open mixed doubles trophy with Martina Hingis, 12 years after winning the same trophy with Martina Navratilova. Photo: Ben Solomon/Tennis Australia.

Leander Paes won his third Australian Open mixed doubles trophy – and second with a Martina Hingis. Photo: AFP.

February 1, 2015: Twelve years after partnering Martina Navratilova to the Australian Open mixed doubles title, Leander Paes won the same trophy with Martina Hingis on Sunday with a 6-4, 6-3 win over defending champions Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic.

 

Paes won his 15th Grand Slam title in men’s and mixed doubles, while Hingis won her 16th major title but the first in the third chapter of her career, having retired twice.

 

Hingis, the former World No. 1, won seven Australian Open singles and doubles titles before her first break from the sport in 2003. On Sunday, the 34-year-old Swiss collected a second mixed doubles crown in Melbourne to go with her 2006 triumph, won during her second spell in professional tennis.

 

Paes, 41, won the first of his three Australian Open mixed doubles titles in 2003 with the legendary Navratilova, who watched Sunday’s final from the stands as her namesake followed her good taste in partners.

 

“Martina, thank you for lending me Leander,” Hingis joked, drawing a smile from Navratilova, reported www.ausopen.com. “I know you won your last title together.”

 

Paes was delighted to lift his seventh Grand Slam mixed doubles trophy five years on from his last, a triumph the Indian stalwart put down to finally playing with Hingis at a major.

 

“There are a few people who got us together,” said Paes, who lifted Hingis up in celebration after the victory. “All you guys back home who put us together to win our first Grand Slam, thank you.”

 

Nestor and Mladenovic had earned their berth the hard way, beating top seeds Sania Mirza of India and Bruno Soares of Brazil in the semi-finals. The final pitted the Canadian and Frenchwoman’s power and angles against the craft and movement of Hingis and Paes, both showing great reflexes at the net in the opening exchanges.

 

It took a while for the Indian to find his best form early on and a sloppy service game kept the title holders in contention after they had slipped 3-0 down. But the seventh seeds’ i-formation caused plenty of problems for their opponents, who were driven to distraction by Paes’ roving at the net, backed up by sterling defensive work from Hingis.

 

Mladenovic took a wild swing at a backhand drive volley to hand a set point at 4-5 and Nestor double-faulted to give up the first set in 29 minutes.

 

In the second, the Frenchwoman profited from a lucky net cord as her return foxed Paes’ attempted intercept to break for a 2-1 lead, but Mladenovic fell to a break in the very next game.

 

The 21-year-old did Nestor no favours at the net in game six with some poor volleys and in a flash the third seeds were 4-2 down. However, Hingis could not maintain the pressure as the Canadian secured the break back with an unplayable return.

 

Still, Hingis and Paes were on top, moving their opponents around the court with some deft touches and fine returns. When Nestor was unable to protect Mladenovic’s serve in game eight, the writing was on the wall, and Hingis sealed victory with a backpedalling smash that Mladenovic could not field.

 

In 1997, Hingis won her first Australian Open singles and women’s doubles titles and on Sunday found it hard to believe that almost two decades on she had won a ninth Grand Slam title in Melbourne. “Not even in my wildest dreams did I think that 20 years later I’d be standing here again.”

 

Source: Michael Beattie / Australian Open (www.ausopen.com); Editing by SportAsia

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