Australian Open success will boost tennis in India: Sania

February 1st, 2009 - 7:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne, Feb 1 (IANS) Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza say India’s success at the Australian Open will take tennis in the country to a new level.Bhupathi and Sania Sunday became the first Indian pair to win a mixed doubles Grand Slam title when they beat Israel’s Andy Ram and Nathalie Dechy of France 6-3, 6-1.

It capped a successful tournament for India after 16-year-old Yuki Bhambri won the boys’ junior title Saturday. Bhupathi also finished runner-up in the men’s doubles with partner Mark Knowles of the Bahamas.

“It’s great, I don’t remember the last time when we had so many people in the finals. He (Bhupathi) played the doubles finals, we won the mixed doubles, Yuki won. It’s been a great two weeks,” Sania said.

The victory added a new feather to Sania’s career as she became the first Indian women to win a Grand Slam.

Sania has been almost off court last year, hampered by a wrist injury which saw her tumble out of top-100 singles ranking.

Sania, who made a second-round exit in singles here, said the Grand Slam trophy will give an impetus to her career.

“It’s always a dream to win a Grand Slam. That’s what we all play for. It makes it more special because it’s with someone that I have known for so long and so well.”

The 22-year-old Sania is a household name in India since her breakthrough year in 2005 which catapulted her to the top of international tennis.

Bhupathi, whose company Globosport manages Sania, said the victory is the first of many more to come for her in the future.

“I think millions and millions of people watched this match today. Any time Sania plays at home, there’s a lot of people watching,” said Bhupathi.

The 34-year-old Bhupathi captured his seventh mixed doubles title, but the fact that it came with an Indian for the first time made it a memorable one.

“I know for a fact the whole country’s excited now. It’s her (Sania) first slam — she’s been in the news for the last four years.”

Bhupathi, who now has 11 majors, in 1997 became the first Indian to win a Grand Slam.

Three of his four men’s doubles titles came with Leander Paes.

“It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me this weekend. I want to thank all the Indians. There are so many millions supporting us, not just here but back at home.”

Bhupathi said he would continue to partner Sania in mixed doubles.

“It’s always four slams where we have the opportunity to play mixed doubles. I’d like to continue playing with her, now that we’re doing so well.”

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