Paes brings cheer on a day cricketers cave in

January 28th, 2012 - 10:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin Tendulkar Adelaide/Melbourne, Jan 28 (IANS) Tennis veteran Leander Paes gave Indian fans in Australia something to cheer about by winning the Australian Open men’s doubles title on a day when the star studded cricket team suffered the humiliation of a 0-4 whitewash in the Test series Saturday.

The 38-year-old Paes became the first Indian to complete a career Grand Slam of winning all the four major tennis titles when he won the Australian Open men’s doubles event in Melbourne. The win came hours after India’s meek surrender at the Adelaide Oval, some 700 km away from the Rod Laver Arena in the Melbourne Park that witnessed Paes’s triumph.

Paes and his Czech partner Radek Stepanek thrashed World No.1 pair Bryan brothers Mike and Bob from the US in straight sets in the final. The Indo-Czech pair, who had lost to the American twins in the Sydney International tournament in the run-up to the Open, won 7-6(7-1), 6-2.

For Paes, this is his seventh men’s doubles Grand Slam and 13th overall including six mixed doubles titles. For him and Stepanek this is their second title together, having won a tour final way back in 2004.

Of the seven Grand Slam titles Paes won, three came with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi and the other four, curiously, with three different Czech partners — Martin Damm, Lukas Dlouhy and now Stepanek. Paes was also cheered on by his former mixed doubles partner Martina Navratilova, also a Czech.

While the Rod Laver Arena witnessed Paes and Stepanek dancing around in joy, the Adelaide Oval saw the Australian cricketers celebrating their domination of star-studded Indian team.

It took just 58 minutes for the Australian team to pick up the last four wickets and bowled out India for 201 runs in the second innings as the visitors lost the fourth and final Test against Australia by a massive 298 runs.

For India it was their second 0-4 whitewash in seven months. India were also whitewashed during their tour of England last year.

The humiliation has sparked a debate on whether to phase out the ageing performers in the Indian team. Rahul Dravid (39), Sachin Tendulkar (38), V.V.S. Laxman (37) are all at the fag end of their career and after their miserable performance in the four Tests in Australia have raised questions on their place in the Indian team.

Paes, however, at the age of 38 is not showing any signs of slowing down and is in sight of his 14th Grand Slam title as he gears up for Sunday’s mixed doubles final with Russian partner Elena Vesnina. The unseeded Indo-Russian pair would face eight seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the US and Romanian Horia Tecau in the final. Winning the mixed doubles title would be perfect way to end Paes campaign at the Australian Open.

Before winning Saturday’s men’s doubles title, the closest Paes came to winning the Australian Open was in 1999 when he and Bhupathi were beaten by Swede Bjonas Bjorkman and Australian Patrick Rafter in five sets after being 2-1 up. The Indians lost last year, too, to Mike and Bob Bryan over three sets. The Americans also denied Paes in 2006 when Damm was the Indian’s partner.

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