Mirza, Bhupathi Capture Mixed Title in Melbourne
Published February 01, 2009 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - Last year they came in second, but this year India's Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza took home the mixed doubles title at the Australian Open, crushing Israeli-French team Andy Ram and Nathalie Dechy in Sunday's final, 63 61.
Bhupathi and Mirza, who were wildcards into the mixed event, upset sixth seeds Kveta Peschke and Pavel Vizner in their opening round, then beat four unseeded teams in a row - including Dechy and Ram in the final - to take the title. They were runners-up to Nenad Zimonjic and Sun Tiantian in 2008.
"It's always a dream to win a Grand Slam - that's what we all play for," Mirza said. "It's even more special because it's with someone I've known for so long and know so well. It's a dream come true. We came very close last year, but we did one better this time. And we definitely hope to continue on like this."
After an injury-marred 2008 - missing three months in the spring and all post-Olympic events because of a right wrist injury - Mirza couldn't have asked for a better start to 2009, this being her first Grand Slam title of any kind.
"The wrist has held up - that's the biggest positive," Mirza commented. "I've been playing men's players for the last two weeks, and it has held up."
Bhupathi now has 11 Grand Slam titles to his name: four in men's doubles (three with Leander Paes and one with Max Mirnyi) and seven in mixed. The six other Sony Ericsson WTA Tour stars he has won with are Rika Hiraki, Ai Sugiyama, Elena Likhovtseva, Mary Pierce, Daniela Hantuchova and Martina Hingis.
"I know for a fact the whole country is excited now," said Bhupathi, who is also Mirza's manager and mentor. "It's her first Slam. She's been in the news for the last four years. A lot of players in the past have won a Slam in either doubles or mixed then gone on to do better things, like Lleyton Hewitt. Even Venus and Serena, they won their first Slams in mixed. Then they moved up in singles."
Ram and Dechy had upset two seeded pairings en route to the final, namely No.4 seeds Jamie Murray and Liezel Huber and No.7 seeds Tommy Robredo and Anabel Medina Garrigues. Ram and Dechy had won a Grand Slam mixed doubles title before, at the 2007 French Open.
It was a strong weekend for Indian tennis, as one of their juniors - Yuki Bhambri - took home the boys' singles title.
"Let's hope this has a big impact back in India," Mirza said. "I don't remember the last time we had so much success. It has been a great two weeks. Let's hope a lot more people start playing and tennis grows. It has been growing. It might take it to another level."