SPORT

Sania-Mahesh win mixed doubles title

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: India’s Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi had no problems against France’s Nathalie Dechy and Israel’s Andy Ram in the mixed doubles final.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: India’s Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi had no problems against France’s Nathalie Dechy and Israel’s Andy Ram in the mixed doubles final.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTO: AP

The pair crushes Andy Ram and Nathalie Dechy in straight sets

MELBOURNE: Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza became the first Indian pair to win a Grand Slam mixed doubles title on Sunday when they crushed Andy Ram of Israel and Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy 6-3, 6-1.

For Mahesh, Sunday’s victory was his 11th Grand Slam title while Sania celebrated her first success at this level.

“It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me this weekend,” he said.

“I want to thank all the Indians — we are very lucky that there are so many millions supporting us, not just here but back at home.”

In great touch

The unseeded Mahesh and Sania, who were granted a wildcard to the Open, started well against Ram and Dechy, breaking Dechy early in the first set. Ram and Dechy broke back but the Indians attacked Dechy’s serve later in the set and broke again to take the first set in 28 minutes.

It took two minutes less to wrap up the second set and with it the match as they outplayed their opponents with some perfect doubles.

“We wanted to stay out there and make it longer but they were just too good for us,” Ram admitted.

Mahesh had a mixed weekend after he lost the men’s doubles final with Mark Knowles on Saturday.

“My coach, trainer and obviously Sania were trying to keep me as positive as possible,” said Mahesh, who lost only point in four service games.

“But going home without a title after making two finals just crossed my mind a few too many times in the match. It didn’t happen, so I’m happy at that.”

Sania, who wasn’t bothered by a recent wrist problem during the tournament, also felt pretty good.

A dream

“It’s always a dream to win a Grand Slam, that’s what we all play for I think when we’re younger,” she said. “It makes it more special because it’s with someone that I’ve known for so long and so well.”

The 34-year-old Mahesh won a previous mixed title at the Australian Open in 2006 with Martina Hingis.

Mahesh and 22-year-old Sania broke Dechy’s serve in the opening set, then broke their opponents twice in the second. Mahesh was dominant at the net throughout the match.

Sania hoped it might have a positive impact in India.

“Let’s hope a lot,” she said. “I don’t remember the last time when we had so many — I mean, he (Mahesh) played the finals, we won today, Yuki won. It’s been a great two weeks.

“Let’s hope a lot more people play, and tennis grows. It’s been growing. (This) might take it to another level.”

Mahesh agreed.

“I know for a fact the country’s excited now,” he said. “It’s her first Slam. She’s been in the news for the last four years. I think a lot of good players in the past have won a Slam in either doubles or mixed and then gone on to do better things. Even Venus and Serena (Williams), they won their first slams in mixed and were confident to move up in singles.”

Knowing India’s love of sport, and particularly of sport that India does well in — cricket in particular — Mahesh was asked if a rich mixed doubles exhibition tournament could be organised soon in his country.

“Yeah, we might consider an exhibition,” Mahesh said. “Maybe once the economy turns around across the world, we’ll look at it. Obviously I think millions and millions of people watched this match today. Any time Sania plays at home, there’s a lot of people watching.”

Both players are heading home to India from Melbourne. Mahesh said he wasn’t sure of the reception on their arrival.”

“Well, hopefully not too big,” Mahesh said. “I’m not a big fan of receptions. I’d like to sneak out the back door at the airport.”

Excellent win: Ramesh

Former Davis Cup captain Ramesh Krishnan, on Sunday, lauded the effort, saying their triumph augurs well for the Indian tennis.

“Like every Indian I am happy for the excellent win. Mahesh played exceedingly well. He led from the front in their straight set win for the title, particularly getting in as wild cards,” Ramesh said.

Ramesh said the triumph would be particularly morale-boosting for Sania, who has been battling injuries and poor form for the past one year.

“Sania’s first Grand Slam title coming at the time when she has been troubled by injuries is a heart-warming one. It should boost her confidence. Today’s great victory should help her to start winning lot many matches in singles as well. Overall, it has been good tiding for Indian tennis particularly for the youngsters,” he said. — Agencies

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