Leander Paes equalled the record for most Grand Slam title triumphs by an Indian as the veteran and his Zimbabwean partner Cara Black clinched the Australian Open mixed doubles Championship with a straight-set win here today.
Top seeds and favourites, the 36-year-old Paes and the 30-year-old Black beat 10th seeds Ekaterina Makarova of Russia and Jaroslav Levinsky of Czechoslovakia 7-5 6-3 in just about one and a half hour.
The triumph gave the Indian his 11th overall and fifth mixed doubles title. With this, Paes has equalled former doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi’s tally.
Paes and Black have lost in the finals of the last two Grand Slams they have played in, but today was different with the pair dominating the match from the start.
They broke their rivals as early as in the third game and save for a couple of breaks lost on Black’s serve, the Indo-Zimbabwean pair seemed hardly troubled by Makarova and Levinsky, who committed far too many unforced errors.
Black, whose net game and serve were the weak links for the top seeds, raised her game when it mattered after getting some pep talk from Paes.
Having lost her serve twice, Black held it in the all-important 12th game before Paes smashed a winner to clinch the opener 7-5.
The emotionally charged Paes exulted and an equally enthusiastic crowd cheered him on in the stands.
With momentum going in their favour, Paes and Black broke their rivals in the very first game of the second set.
Makarova and Levinsky has their moments but they were far too few in a match which left them amazed at Paes’ athleticism.
They could only watch wide-eyed as the veteran Indian reached out to chase unlikely winners at the net and inspire his partner in moments of doubt.
This is Paes and Black’s second title together, the first being the 2008 US Open.
Paes and Black had made back-to-back Grand Slam finals - Wimbledon and the US Open - last season but faltered at the finishing line in both the events.
Paes has been a former mixed doubles’ champions at Melbourne Park and that triumph came in 2003 when he was partnering American legend Martina Navratilova.