Bhupathi And Paes Win Doubles Title
by Matt Fitzgerald|
There’s a new No. 1 team in the 2011 ATP World Tour Doubles Team Rankings.
Third seeded Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes claimed their first title together at the Sony Ericsson Open Saturday, overcoming a first-set deficit to defeat No. 2 seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 6-7(5), 6-2, 10-5. Paes is now a two-time reigning champion after winning the event last year with Lukas Dlouhy; Bhupathi earned his first career title at Crandon Park. “The key [to us winning] was just fighting as a team. Like Leander said, we didn’t play our best match of the week. All four of us were tentative in the beginning,” Bhupathi told www.sonyericssonopen.com after winning his first title in Miami.
The Indian tandem served for the first set up 6-5, but didn’t close it out, and never had a lead in the tie-break. Some well-struck returns by the Belarusian-Canadian duo helped the No. 2 seeds win a tight first set. “We had a chance to win that set but we didn’t take it – threw away the breaker pretty much,” Bhupathi said.
After overcoming a deciding point in the opening game on Paes’ serve, Bhupathi and his partner settled into the match, stepping up all parts of their game. A double fault by Nestor in the fourth game enabled the Indians to move ahead 3-1, and they never looked back.
“My level dropped after the first set,” Nestor admitted to www.sonyericssonopen.com. “We didn’t get enough balls in play and they served better as the match went on. Max played well, so I feel bad about that. But we played against a tough team today.”
The win moves the Indians ahead of World No. 1 Bob and Mike Bryan for first place in the 2011 ATP Doubles Team Rankings and in the battle to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. It’s their second team title of the year, following victory at their home event in Chennai to start the season.
“It’s still early for us. The season is broken down into four segments – this is just the first of them. If we’re still No. 1 after the US Open, then we’ll start getting excited,” said Bhupathi.
All four players have succeeded on clay in their careers, each winning at least one French Open, and they’re looking forward to changing gears in April. “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Nestor, who partnered Nenad Zimonjic to a championship at Roland Garros last year.
“The surface doesn’t matter for us. Max and I have both had good results on clay and while it’s a challenge to change surfaces, if you’re playing well, it doesn’t make a difference.”
Paes finished runner-up to Nestor and Zimonjic with Lukas Dlouhy last year at the French Open, after he and the Czech won it in 2009. He is excited to transition into the clay-court season.
“We love playing on the dirt. We got a month off now to get ourselves physically fit and get ready for a lot of long matches on the clay,” revealed Paes to www.sonyericssonopen.com.
“The clay definitely helps us because we train so hard for it over the years but at the same time there are a lot of singles guys who play well on the dirt too. At the French Open, I think it’s one of the hardest slams to win, but if we’re physically right, I think it will be good.”
Huge celebrities in India, this is one of the rare occasions where Bhupathi and Paes’ success will not be front-page news in their home country. India won the cricket World Cup earlier today, a massive achievement for a team that hadn’t won the event in 28 years. “I just want to congratulate the team, all of them. Great job boys!” an enthused Paes said after the match.
The two watched the event via a live stream and knew the result heading into their match. “It gave us extra motivation. It’s a big deal for our country and kudos to the whole team,” said Bhupathi.
Mirnyi was looking to win his fifth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown in Miami, which would have broken a tie with “The Woodies”, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, for most doubles titles at Crandon Park. Nestor won the event in 2002 with Mark Knowles and was appearing in his third final in Miami.
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