Sania excels to help Bhupathi enter second final(Lead)

January 30th, 2009 - 4:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne, Jan 30 (IANS) India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza shrugged off an indifferent start while outplaying Czech pair Lukas Dlouhy and Iveta Benesova 6-4, 6-1 to enter the mixed doubles final at the Australian Open for the second successive year here Friday.The Indians in the final will play France’s Nathalie Dechy and Andy Ram of Israel who overcame a stiff resistance from Spain’s seventh-seeded pair Anabel Medina Garrigues and Tommy Robredo 7-6 (7), 6-4 Thursday

Bhupathi, who has won six mixed doubles and four men’s doubles titles is on the verge of winning a Grand Slam double for the second time, having entered the men’s doubles final with Mark Knowles of Bahamas. Mahesh and Knowles play the Bryan twins Mark and Bob in Saturday’s final.

Bhupathi, considered one of the top doubles players, had entered both the men’s and mixed doubles finals at the U.S. Open in 1999, but could only win the mixed title with Japanese Ai Sugiyama, losing the men’s doubles final with Leander Paes.

Bhupathi’s last mixed doubles title was in 2006 when he and former women’s World No. 1 Martina Hingis won at the Australian Open and his last men’s doubles win came at the U.S. Open with Belarussian Max Mirnyi.

Bhupathi and Sania showed a stomach for fight with the latter making up for Bhupathi’s sluggish start. The 22-year old Hyderabadi excelled both at the net and from the baseline with some outstanding groundstrokes and volleys. Aamazingly, the Indians broke Dlouhy’s serve four times, twice in each set, to make their task easier in the 54-minute battle.

The only time the Indians trailed in the entire match was when Bhupathi dropped his first service game of the match and trailed 0-3. But Sania handled the situation remarkably well to pull the Indian pair back.

The Indians were back in the hunt after breaking Dlouhy for the first time, rallying from 0-40. From then on there was no looking back by the Indian pair. As they pounced on Dlouhy’s serve again the set was gone for the Czech pair and Bhupathi served it out.

Dlouhy continued to serve poorly and as Sania got into the overdrive, Bhupathi, too, chipped in with timely interceptions at the net to gain the upper hand straightaway in the second set. A demoralised Czech pair watched helplessly as the Indians struck winner after winner to take the set and the match.

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