Switch in time saves nine: Leander Paes on US Open win
India's tennis ace Leander Paes says timely execution of his special shot helped set up record ninth mixed doubles Grand Slam at the US Open; praises partner Martina Hingis
If Swiss ace Roger Federer has his SABR (Sneaky Attack by Roger), India's tennis veteran Leander Paes could well call his forehand winner (at 7-7 in the super tie-breaker) against Americans Sam Querrey and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in Friday's US Open mixed doubles final SABL (Sneaky Attack by Leander).
Sealed with a kiss: India's Leander Paes and his Swiss partner Martina Hingis kiss their US Open mixed doubles trophy which they won after beating Americans Sam Querrey and Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 3-6, 10-7 at Flushing Meadows, New York on Friday. Pic/Getty Images
As Mattek-Sands stepped up to serve with the score reading 6-4, 3-6, and 7-7 in the super tie-breaker, it was even Stevens, before Paes decided to stamp his authority on the proceedings. The 42-year-old pounced on the Mattek-Sands serve and simply pushed the ball down the line past Querrey, who stood rooted in disbelief even as the sizeable crowd applauded the moment. The Americans called for a review, which suggested that the ball was well in.
Paes and his Swiss partner Martina Hingis took the next two points and with it, the championship to got into the record books by becoming the first mixed doubles team since 1969 to win three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles together in the same year (Australian Open, Wimbledon, & US Open). Paes was more than happy to describe his super shot.
"It came off beautifully, didn't it? I noticed that Bethanie was always serving wide on my forehand, so I just pushed the ball down the line. I saw Sam was quite inside the line, so I got that gap to his left. It's something I practice, but when to execute it, is something that comes up instinctively. It's just a gentle push down the line — no power, just placement," Paes told Sunday mid-day from New York on Saturday.
Not an easy shot
"But having said that, it's not an easy shot to play and that too at the time I did. It's one thing to play that shot when you are 2-1 or 3-1 up in a set or up a break, but to do it like that, with a gun to your head, is crazy. But then, it was worth taking the risk because at the end of the day, that shot broke their backs really," added Paes, who also became the highest mixed doubles Grand Slam title-winning male, with nine titles. Only Czech legend Martina Navratilova has more — 10 mixed doubles crowns — and of those, two were won with Paes (2003 Australian Open & Wimbledon).
Paes however, was all praise for the other Martina in his life on Saturday — Hingis. "Marti is a rock star. I think it's all too common for doubles teammates to gel well on court, but it's rare to be best friends off it, and that's the special bond I share with her," said India's highest Grand Slam winner with 17 titles. Speaking of his opponents, Paes said, unlike most others, he wasn't surprised by the unseeded pair's performance.
"Sam has a very big serve and he showed it today. We play World Team Tennis together for the Washington Kastles and he recently kept asking me questions about doubles. But little did I know that he'd use my tips against me (laughs). Jokes apart, this win is special because unlike our Wimbledon final win, where we dominated (to win 6-1, 6-1 against Alexander Peya and Timea Babos), it was a lot tougher here because Bethanie and Sam are a great combination," added the former India David Cup captain, who is all set for national duty next up.
India face the Czech Republic in a Davis Cup World Group play-off tie in New Delhi next week (September 18-20) and Paes is itching to put on his India blue. "I've always played for the flag and this time is no different. The Czechs won't be easy, but I'm looking to carry my form into that one," said the six-time Olympian, who is eyeing Olympics No 7 in Rio next year.
Davis Cup, Rio 2016
"Winning this one on hard court keeps me in good stead for not only the Davis Cup tie coming up, but also for next Year's Rio Olympics since both are hard court surfaces. Let's hope I can keep winning for India," Paes signed off.