Old warhorses Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi won their first title together in over six years, grinding out a 6-2, 6-7(3), 10-7 win over first-timers Robin Haase and David Martin in the Chennai Open final on Sunday.
The fearsome alliance thus set itself up to mount a genuine challenge on the Australian Open, the only major title missing from their collection. The season's first Grand Slam begins in Melbourne on January 17.
“I wouldn't say the body feels like nine years ago, but it feels great to win,” said Bhupathi, 36, who last won the Chennai Open, in conjunction with Paes, 37, in 2002.
After a prolonged estrangement, Paes and Bhupathi met with first round losses the last two times they paired up, in Indianapolis 2008 and Bangkok 2010.
But this time was different and the full house that greeted the pair on Sunday evening was in for a treat.
In their 34th Tour final together, Paes was his usual quicksilver self up front, and Bhupathi manned the baseline, grim and focused.
After a momentary lapse cost them the second set, the Indian pair overcame a 1-4 deficit in the super tie-break and took the title when Bhupathi seared a forehand through the far court. The match lasted one hour and 45 minutes, and gave the Indian stars their fifth Chennai Open title.
“I just decided to slow the game a bit when we were down in the super tie-break. Our teamwork made the difference,” said Paes.
Haase and Martin looked overawed by the occasion to start with, conceding a 0-3 lead in the first set, which the Indians clinched 6-2.
The second set was more of a contest, as the rank outsiders traded breaks with the Indian duo – in the third and fourth games - and restored parity after winning the tie-breaker at three.
The Dutch-American pair even looked favourites, having run up a three-point lead in the super tie-break, but experience prevailed over youth in the end.
The result: Doubles: Final: Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi (Ind) bt Robin Haase (Ned) & David Martin (US) 6-2, 6-7(3), 10-7 .