Sun, Zimonjic Capture Australian Open Mixed
Published January 27, 2008 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - Two of the fastest-rising tennis nations in the world joined together in Melbourne this past fortnight and on Sunday shared one of the biggest prizes up for grabs at the year's first Grand Slam. Sun Tiantian and Nenad Zimonjic fended off a stern challenge from Indian pair Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi to win the Australian Open mixed doubles title, 76(4) 64.
Sun and Zimonjic, the No.5 seeds here, broke early en route to a 3-1 opening set lead, but that wasn't to last very long as the unseeded Indians got that break back and kept the set on serve through the tie-break. They even surged out to a 3-0 lead once there but Sun and Zimonjic fought back, surrendering only one of the next eight points to take that tie-break, 7-4.
The second set began much like the first, as Sun and Zimonjic broke at their first opportunity - but this time they held on to their serve games the rest of the way, squandering match point at 5-3 but ending the title match in the next game.
"I thought we were serving a little bit better and putting non-stop pressure on them," said Zimonjic of his team's form against the Indian duo. "Down 3-0 in the tie-break we stayed calm and positive. We turned it around there from 0-3 to 6-3 and then won the tie-break. We broke in the first game of the second set, and then it was a little bit easier I have to say."
Judging by their paths to the final, it seemed like Mirza and Bhupathi would be the fresher of the teams in the final. They dropped only one set, to No.2 seeds Lisa Raymond and Simon Aspelin in the second round. They also received a walkover in the quarterfinals, only playing three matches to make the final.
On the other side of the draw, Sun and Zimonjic made a strong start but were in all sorts of trouble in their quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, dropping the first set in both before rallying back to win, 46 76(7) 108 against No.1 seeds Cara Black and Paul Hanley and 46 75 106 against No.3 seeds Yan Zi and Mark Knowles. But perhaps coming through in the clutch gave them that belief they needed, and in Sunday's final they were as sharp as ever.
"It was a lot of fun on the court," Zimonjic said. "I thought we played some really good matches. It was interesting tennis and we both enjoyed it. She was very good at the net and moves well. The more we played, the more we understood each other."
"He was so good," Sun said. "He was so strong on court, and I was able to do my best on the court."
For Zimonjic it was a third Grand Slam mixed doubles title, having prevailed here in 2004 (with Elena Bovina) and on clay at Roland Garros in 2006 (with Katarina Srebotnik). Sun, who is probably best known for winning Olympic doubles gold in 2004 with Li Ting, wins her very first Grand Slam title of any kind, also the third Grand Slam title of any kind for China, after Yan and Zheng Jie won two Grand Slam doubles titles in 2006 (Australian Open and Wimbledon).
"We're pretty sure we're playing Wimbledon," Zimonjic said. "We just have to see about the French, because I promised Katarina Srebotnik there - we have a good record there - and depending on her because she plays singles and doubles so it depends how she feels. We'll talk about this maybe during Miami or Indian Wells and just go from there."