Likhovtseva, Nestor Finally Win Slam Together
Published January 28, 2007 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - Often times, one plays their best tennis in the absence of pressure. One of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's most seasoned veterans did just that on Sunday in Melbourne, just weeks after deciding to hold back on retirement from the pro circuit; Elena Likhovtseva and Daniel Nestor finally grabbed mixed doubles glory at the Australian Open, beating Belarussian duo Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi, 64 64, in the championship match.
"This is my second title in mixed doubles, but because Daniel and I played all last year and had two finals and didn't succeed, it is very nice to win with him," said Likhovtseva, who had previously held a major mixed title at Wimbledon in 2002; she and Nestor were runners-up last year at the Australian and French Opens. "It was our second time in the finals in Australia. We won and I hope we continue playing the whole year. So it feels very nice."
"We had a pretty good game plan; the fact that Elena plays really well from the baseline and I play well from the net is a good combination for us," Nestor said. "The inexperience of the young Belarusian, Victoria, maybe showed a little bit, although I thought she played really well. Maybe a couple loose errors at the net cost them. Max was aggressive, but I think he's played better matches. His serve wasn't as big as some other times I've played him in the past. I think we capitalized on our opportunities and it worked out."
The winning team was unseeded in the draw, but took out a plethora of seeds, namely No.8 seeds Meghann Shaughnessy and Martin Damm (first round), No.3 seeds Samantha Stosur and Leander Paes (quarterfinals) and No.7 seeds Liezel Huber and Kevin Ullyett (semifinals). Azarenka and Mirnyi were a wild card team who took out, among others, No.1 seeds Lisa Raymond and Bob Bryan and No.4 seeds Francesca Schiavone and Jonas Bjorkman.
Likhovtseva's decision to prolong her career at the end of last year brought joy to both her and her Canadian partner; and rightly so, considering a Grand Slam title was just around the corner.
"I've been on the tour for a long time and I just decided that I should start doing something different," said Likhovtseva, who enjoyed the best year of her career in 2005, finishing ranked No.17, but dipped down to No.42 by the end of 2006. "But then I thought if I still enjoy it, and I did, then at the end of last year I had good results, and I decided that I should maybe go another year."
"I'm very happy that Elena decided not to retire at the end of last year," Nestor said. "She told me she might. It's good that she stayed. We played well the whole way through, both of us played well, and especially today we both played well."