Leander Paes over the moon after his 6-4, 6-3 Australian Open mixed doubles win with Hingis
India tennis icon Leander Paes, in his 25th season on the ATP World Tour, continues to play like a 25-year-old. Yesterday, 41-year-old Paes and his Swiss partner Martina Hingis beat defending champions Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 6-3 to win the Australian Open mixed doubles crown Melbourne at Park. It was Paes' 15th Grand Slam title (eight men's doubles & seven mixed doubles) from the 32 Grand Slam finals he's played in.
Leander Paes & Martina Hingis pose with their Australian Open mixed doubles trophy. Pic/AFP
In an interview with mid-day moments after his third mixed doubles triumph Down Under (he won in 2003 with Martina Navratilova & in 2010 with Cara Black), the six-time Olympian said he's looking forward to more Slam success this year.
On winning Slam No 15...
It's phenomenal to start 2015 with Slam No 15, and that too with a legend like Martina. The best thing about this is win is that we did not lose a set en route. That's special because in the new No Ad scoring (ATP's rule change for doubles where the team winning the next point after deuce wins the game) format, a match can turn in one shot.
On the final gameplan...
Our strategy was purely mental. We looked at trying to neutralise Nestor's fierce first serve and thereafter maneuvering our much taller opponents across the court with some quick and creative play. Once, we covered their first powerful shot or first big serve or first hard return of serve, we began moving them around the court. Now they are both big guys, so by forcing them to move around too much, we frequently caught them off balance or on the wrong foot.
On the Hingis factor...
Martina has vast experience and complemented me on court perfectly. We may not be the biggest hitters of the tennis ball, but we made that up with our smart moves. Interestingly, Martina was a bit nervous to play a Slam with me because she felt that I always have a good chance of wining Grand Slams and she was hesitant, just in case we didn't win together. But I assured her we would, and thankfully I could live up to my promise. So, she's relieved. We've confirmed our partnership for the rest of the year too.
On age catching up...
I've reached a stage in my career, where age hardly matters now. It's all about playing smart tennis. For example today, right from the first point, on my return of the Nestor serve, I had Martina standing back and similarly I also stood back while she was returning his serve. That gave us that extra fraction of a second to think better in terms of changing the course of a shot, to think creatively and eke out a point for ourselves while our opponents were simply trying to hit out hard to win points. It worked and we first broke him early in the first set, then at 4-5 and then again in the second set.
On missing out on men's doubles…
Raaven (Klaasen) and myself have been in two finals in the first three weeks of the year — first in Chennai and then in Auckland. Here too, we lost to the eventual men's doubles champions (Fabio Fognini & Simone Bolleli). Interestingly, Fognini told me in the locker room that as soon as they beat us, they felt they had a chance to win the tournament. This means people are sitting up and taking notice of us as a pair. I'm very optimistic... I'm sure we can win a men's doubles Slam this year.
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