Bhupathi makes it a first all-India affair in mixed Grand Slam


Melbourne : Mahesh Bhupathi, the first Indian to win a Grand Slam title, Sunday made it a first Indian mixed pair to win a major when he and Sania Mirza took the Australian Open title.

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The Indians swept past France’s Nathalie Dechy and Israeli Andy Ram 6-3, 6-1 in the final at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne Park.

In the process, Sania became the first Indian woman to win a Grand Slam. This is Sania’s first Grand Slam title in the seniors as she had won the junior girls doubles at Wimbledon in 2003 with Russian Alisa Kleybanova.

Bhupathi, whose last Grand Slam title also came here in 2006 with Martina Hingis, has now won 11 Grand Slams — seven mixed doubles and four men’s doubles titles.

The victory was more sweet for India as it came a day after the country found a new tennis sensation in Yuki Bhambri, who won the boys singles title Saturday.

It was a perfect exhibition of mixed doubles play by the Indians. They complemented each other so well that they had little difficulty in repeating their last year’s semi-final victory here over the Israeli-French pair.

Sania was again in sublime touch as she was in the semi-finals against Lukas Dlouhy and Iveta Benesova. Bhupathi with his reach covered the net splendidly and the two played some impeccable overhead smashes.

Bhupathi as usual served brilliantly and he just conceded one point in his last four service games.

While Bhupathi and Sania hardly left any gaps for their opponents to exploit, they themselves found large uncovered areas across the net to hit winners with impunity.

Ram and Dechy were swept off their feet and they could do little to stop the Indians from cruising through.

For Bhupathi this is his 11th career Grand Slam title and second at the Australian Open, having won it in 2006 with former women’s World No. 1 Martina Hingis of Switzerland. He had also won at Wimbledon and at U.S. Open twice each. His first title came at the French Open.

Amazingly, Bhupathi’s seven mixed doubles titles have come with a different partner each time.

It all started at Roland Garros in 1997 when he won it with Rika Hiraki. His two US Open titles came with Ai Sugiyama in 1999 and then in 2005 with Daniela Hantuchova. He won at Wimbledon with Elena Likhovtseva and with Mary Pierce in 2005.

Besides, the 34-year-old Banglorean has four men’s doubles title, three of which came with Leander Paes and one with Max Mirnyi of Belarus.

A delighted Bhupathi, who lost the men’s doubles final with Mark Knowles against American Bob and Mike Bryan Saturday said: “I would like to congratulate Sania on her first Grand Slam win, she has more to come by her way.”

He also thanked all the Indians who had supported him and Sania throughout the tournament.