Australian Open champions return to rousing welcome(Lead)

February 2nd, 2009 - 8:17 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Mumbai, Feb 2 (IANS) India’s Australian Open champions returned home Monday to a frenzied reception, promising the country a bright tennis future.It was India’s most successful Grand Slam ever with two titles from three finals.

India unearthed a new champion in Yuki Bhambri, who won the Boys title, while veteran Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza became the first Indian pair to win a mixed doubles title. Bhupathi, who now has a whopping 11 Grand Slam titles to his name, finished runner-up in the men’s doubles. India could not asked for more.

Sania said Monday that winning the Australian Open mixed doubles with Bhupathi was the best way she could make a comeback to the international circuit.

While Yuki returned home as a star amid a tumultuous reception that clearly left the junior champion pleasantly surprised, Bhupathi and Sania received a rousing welcome when they landed at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

Yuki looked lost when he touched down at the Indira Gandhi International airport with coach Aditya Sachdeva in the morning. He could not believe he would get a reception usually reserved only for cricketers.

An electrifying ambience greeted him outside with loud music and hordes of media people running over each other to have the first byte.

“I never expected such a reception, so many people turning out to receive me is overwhelming. The feeling has finally begun to sink in,” a starry-eyed Yuki said.

Sania said Indian tennis is looking up and the title would motivate her to win more.

“It is very special to win your first Grand Slam. After the injury it is a great way to come back. I am just living in the moment for now,” said Sania.

For Bhupathi it was his 11th Grand Slam and seventh mixed doubles title. “We played very well. We are excited and happy to come home for some rest. Yes, definitely we will continue this pair,” he said.

The 34-year-old Bhupathi also finished runners-up in the men’s doubles with Mark Knowles of the Bahamas. They lost to American twins Bob and Mike Bryan.

Sania, who was making a comeback from a wrist injury, is the first Indian woman to win a Grand Slam title. The injury forced the 22-year-old Hyderabadi out of international circuit for most part of 2008 and also pushed her out of the top-100 in the singles ranking.

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