Leander is in the zone, says wife Rhea

Jan 29, 2012, 07:53 IST | Ashwin Ferro

Leander Paes' wife Rhea believes her Australian Open men's doubles champion husband is...

Leander Paes' wife Rhea believes her Australian Open men's doubles champion husband is... 

For someone who's such a strong believer in karma, and an ardent practitioner of Buddhism, it won't be wrong to suggest that India tennis star Leander Paes attained nirvana at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Saturday. For, Paes eventually collected the one trophy that has been eluding him for over two decades -- the Australian Open men's doubles title -- as he and Czech partner Radek Stepanek stunned the world's No 1 pair of Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6 (1), 6-2 at Melbourne Park.

India's Leander Paes and Czech Radek Stepanek pose with their
Australian Open men's doubles trophy at the Rod Laver Arena in
Melbourne on Saturday. The unseeded Indo-Czech duo beat World No
1 Bob and Mike Bryan of USA 7-6 (1), 6-2. Pic/AFP

Thrice beaten
Paes has been in the Australian Open men's doubles final thrice before and finished second-best each time. Twice he lost with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi (1999 & 2011) and once with Czech Martin Damm (2006). The Bryan brothers won two of those three finals (2006 & 2011). Needless to say, the former India Davis Cup skipper was chasing this one hard.

Leander Paes' wife Rhea

Wife Rhea confirmed just this. "He didn't tell me that (he wanted to win the Aus Open men's doubles), but I can tell. I knew he wanted this one really badly. I'm really happy that he has won this one, because, say if five or six years down the line or whenever he thinks of hanging up that racquet, at least now he can feel satiated," Rhea told SUNDAY MiD DAY.

Rhea however, rued the fact that she and daughter Aiyana (5) could not be in Melbourne to celebrate Paes' 13th Grand Slam title. The 38-year-old also created history by becoming the first Indian to complete  a career Grand Slam. "Aiyana's got school, so we couldn't make it to Australia, else we would've flown straight over as soon as he made the quarter-finals," said Rhea, who stood still in front of the TV set back home in Mumbai for the entire duration (84 mins) of the final.

Sheer dominance
Rhea, in fact, had a hunch that Leander would win this one, but even she didn't expect the duo to be as dominant. "The way Leander began the year, with the Chennai Open  win (Paes and Janko Tipsarevic beat Andy Ram and Jonathan Elrich 6-4, 6-4 to win the men's doubles there earlier this month), I just knew he was
IN THE ZONE. However, I also know that the Bryans are a very good team. But the way Leander and Radek played today was simply outstanding. They were all over the court."

More challenges...
As for Sunday's mixed doubles final, where fifth seeds Paes and his Russian partner Elena Vesnina take on eighth seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands of USA and Romania's Horia Tecau, Rhea's not too worried.  "The men's doubles title was the big one for Leander. Of course, I hope he can win the mixed doubles title too. That'll be doubly delightful," she said.

Paes' 7 men's Slams
 1999 French Open, 1999 Wimbledon, 2001 French Open: Won with Mahesh Bhupathi
* 2006 US Open: Won with Martin Damm
* 2009 French Open, 2009 US Open: Won with Lukas Dlouhy
* 2012 Australian Open won with Radek Stepanek

How Paes-Stepanek did it...
* Serve dominated in the first set with just a single break point for each pairing and no breaks of serve.
* Paes-Stepanek stepped up their game in the tie-break with some superb volleying to take it 7-1. 
* The Indo-Czech pair finally broke the Bryans' serve in the    second game of the second to go 2-0 up.
* The Americans then held serve in Game Four for 3-1.
* But they could not snatch back the break in Game 5.
* Both teams thereafter held serve once again for 5-2.
* Paes-Stepanek then broke the World No 1 Americans one final time in Game 8 to seal the title.

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