Melbourne, Feb 1: Indian tennis star Leander Paes and his Swiss partner Marti Hingis beat the French–Cadian team of Kristi Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor in straight sets to clinch the Australian Open mixed doubles crown here on Sunday. Paes, contesting his 25th season on the ATP World Tour, and Hingis defeated defending champions Mladenovic and Nestor 6–4, 6–3 in the fil that lasted an hour and two minutes. Paes has now won 15 Grand Slam championship titles – eight men’s doubles and seven mixed doubles. It was his third mixed doubles triumph at Melbourne Park, having also won in 2003 (with Marti vratilova) and 2010 (with Cara Black). “It’s a great honour to keep coming back to Australia,” said 41–year–old Paes.
“There are a few people who got us together. All you guys back home, who put us together to win our first Grand Slam, thank you.
In the first set, Paes and Hingis took a 3–0 lead, but Nestor and Mladenovic’s I–formation caused problems and they soon levelled the scoreline. At 4–5, a backhand drive volley error by Mladenovic gave Paes and Hingis a set point opportunity on Nestor’s serve. He struck a double fault to end the 29–minute first set.
Nestor and Mladenovic broke Hingis for a 2–1 lead in the second set, but Mladenovic was broken in the next game. Net errors by Nestor paved the way to hand Paes and Hingis a 4–2 lead, but Nestor regained his rhythm on return of serve to break Hingis again.
Mladenovic was broken in the eighth game and Hingis went on to seal victory with a smash winner. Paes and Hingis converted five of their seven break point opportunities, hitting 19 winners and committing just 11 unforced errors for victory on Rod Laver Are.
Former World No.1 Hingis also won the Australian Open mixed doubles title in 2006 (with Mahesh Bhupathi).
“(We were) probably just maybe a little less aggressive on some second serves to Hingis,” said Nestor. “Too many double–faults. I was maybe a little too aggressive with the second serve.”
Nestor said, “They played better for sure. Even when I thought I was serving okay, they were still making a lot of balls. They played well.” IANS