Veteran star Leander Paes on Saturday created history by becoming the first Indian to complete a career Grand Slam by winning the Australian Open men’s doubles title with Radek Stepanek, taming the dangerous top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan in straight sets, in Melbourne.
The unseeded Indo-Czech pair played tremendously to win 7-6(1) 6-2 in the summit clash, which lasted one hour and 24 minutes.
Thrice Paes had reached the Australian open final but lost on all ocassions — twice to Bryan brothers.
This title has eluded Paes since the late 90s when he along with estranged partner Mahesh Bhupathi dominated the doubles tennis and reached the number one spot as a team in 1999.
In their quest to complete their slam tally, Paes and Bhupathi had joined hands in 2011 after a gap 11 years but the title slipped out of their hands as they lost to Bryan brothers.
Paes and Bhupathi broke partnership again with the latter choosing Rohan Bopanna as partner on Tour for the 2012 season.
Paes began the season by winning the Chennai Open with Serbian Janko Tipsarevic.
This is the 13th Grand Slam title for Paes with seven men’s doubles trophies and six mixed doubles titles and is India’s most succesful doubles player in majors. Bhupathi has won 11 Grand Slam titles.
Paes won French Open thrice (1999, 2001, 2009) and Wimbledon (1999) and US Open (2006) once each.
Paes now has a chance to repeat the rare success of winning both men’s doubles and mixed doubles titles in the same Grand Slam tournament as he is due to play the mixed doubles final on Sunday with Russian partner Elena Vesnina.
In 1999 Wimbledon, Paes had won both the titles. Men’s doubles with Bhupathi and doubles with America’s Lisa Raymond.
As expected, it was a keenly fought match. The opening set went with serve with Paes and Bob saving breakpoints on their serves in the fourth and fifth games respectively.
Stepanek attacked Bob’s serve in the fifth game, unleashing tremendous returns and thrilling netplay and earned a breakpoint. But the American brothers saw off the threat comfortably.
Some of the Stepanek shots were so stunning that once Paes even bowed his head, acknowlegding the winner.
Eventually, the issue was stretched to tie-breaker and then Indo-Czech pair dominated the Bryan brothers right after earning break in the first point.
There was no stopping Paes and Stepanek after that first point and they comfortably took the lead, letting the rivals take just one point.
The Bryans lost steam in the second set with Paes and Stepanek dicating terms. Just once they faced anxious moment when Brayns earned a breakpoint in the seventh game but failed to convert.