India's Leander Paes and Swiss ace Martina Hingis are having a blast at Melbourne Park in the year's first Grand Slam. It's hard to tell that this is only their first Grand Slam event together going by the fine co-ordination and camaraderie they've shared over the last few days. Paes says it comes with experience.
Leander Paes and Martina Hingis celebrate their Australian Open mixed doubles semi-final win over Hsieh Su-Wei and Pablo Cuevas at Melbourne Park yesterday. Pic/AFP
The Indo-Swiss seventh seeds have an astounding 29 Grand Slam titles between them (Paes: eight doubles, six mixed & Hingis: five singles, nine doubles, one mixed) Experience pays "Martina (34) is also an elder statesman of the game and like me, she too is hungry to learn every day. We haven't dropped a set yet here and I couldn't ask for anything better.
We're a little slow off the blocks though, but as long as the result is victorious, there's no problem," forty-one-year-old Paes told mid-day from Melbourne yesterday after making his 31st Grand Slam final brushing aside Hsieh Su-Wei and Pablo Cuevas 7-5, 6-3 in an hour and 14 minutes in the semis.
Surprisingly, this partnership was not initiated by either player. "Martina and myself have been playing together for the Washington Kastles at the World Team Tennis and have been unbeaten for two seasons, but somehow we never go together for the Slams. I was too shy to ask Martina to play a Slam with me and she probably felt the same.
"Our managerial teams floated the idea at last year's US Open, six months ago, and here we are today," added Paes, admitting he's eager to get on court for Sunday's final against Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor, who beat India's Sania Mirza and Bruno Soares 3-6, 6-2, 10-8 in the other semi-final yesterday.
The final will be very tough, felt Paes. "Both Kristina and Daniel have strong ground strokes, so we're going to have to work on some sharp return of serves. If we can get that going, it should turn out to be a super Sunday," Paes signed off.