MELBOURNE: India’s veteran tennis ace Leander Paes finally completed a career Grand Slam of winning all the four major tennis titles by winning the Australian Open men’s doubles event here on Saturday.
Paes and his Czech partner Radek Stepanek thrashed World No.1 pair Bryan brothers Mike and Bob from the US in straight sets in the final at the Rod Laver Arena.
The Indo-Czech pair, who lost to the American twins in the Sydney International tournament in the run-up to the Open, won 7-6(7-1), 6-2.
The unseeded pair beat the top seeds in an hour and 24 minutes, excelling in court-craft and splendid net-play. Stepanek was the star, a fact acknowledged by Paes after the match, as the Czech showed some great hands at the net besides his immaculate ground strokes to deny the Bryan brothers their record sixth Australian Open title.
For Paes, this is his seventh men’s doubles Grand Slam and 13th overall including six mixed doubles titles. For him and Stepanek this is their second title together, having won a tour final way back in 2004.
If the seven Grand Slam titles Paes won, three came with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi and the other four, curiously, with three different Czech partners — Martin Damm, Lukas Dlouhy and now Stepanek.
Paes and Mahesh won the French and Wimbledon and lost the Australian and US Open finals in 1999. Their third title came two years later at Roland Garros.
Paes’ fourth success came with Damm at the US Open in 2006. The next two he won with Dlouhy — the 2009 French and the US Open.
The closest Paes came to winning the Australian Open was in 1999 when he and Bhupathi were beaten by Swede Bjonas Bjorkman and Australian Patrick Rafter in five sets after being 2-1 up. The Indians lost last year, too, to Mike and Bob Bryan over three sets. The Americans also denied Paes in 2006 when Damm was the Indian’s partner.
Paes also has six mixed doubles Grand Slam titles and will be looking for his seventh in his 13th final Sunday. He and his Russian partner Elena Vesnina will take on eight seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the US and Romanian Horia Tecau.