Tag Archives: australian open 2015

Twelve years on, evergreen Leander Paes finds his match in another Martina

At an age when men are happy showing off their calorific beer bellies, Leander Paes is busy rewriting tennis history.

On Sunday, the 41-year-old combined beautifully with another popular champion in Swiss queen Martina Hingis to capture his 15th Grand Slam title. The Indian ace and his twice-retired partner defeated Canadian Daniel Nestor and Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-3 to win the mixed doubles crown at theAustralian Open in Melbourne.

Paes, who has also won eight Grand Slam men’s doubles titles, took his mixed doubles tally to seven. The 34-year-old Hingis, a former World No. 1, now has 16 major crowns, including five on the singles circuit.

Interestingly, Paes and Hingis celebrated their third and second mixed doubles triumphs, respectively, at the season’s opening major. Back in 2003, Paes had combined with the player Hingis was named after — Martina Navratilova. Call it a sweet coincidence or whatever, but Navratilova was in the stands on Sunday. And incredibly enough, the last time Hingis won here, in 2006, her partner was a chap called Mahesh Bhupathi. In 2010, Paes won the title with Zimbabwe’s Cara Black.

“Martina, thank you for lending me Leander!” Hingis joked at the trophy ceremony, drawing a smile from the American who is considered among the greatest players of all time. “I know you won your last (Australian Open) title together. Not even in my wildest dreams that 20 years (18, actually) later I’d be standing here again.”

“It feels awesome to win my 15th Grand Slam title in the very first month of the year. This Grand Slam is special because Martina and I won it without losing a set,” Paes told dna. “Winning Grand Slams with both Martina Navratilova and Martina Hingis is very special,” he added.

The Indo-Swiss pair opened their campaign against Australia’s Sam Thompson of Donvale and Werribee’s Masa Jovanovic, winning 6-2 7-6(2). In the next round, they overcame Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues and Pablo Andujar 6-3 6-1. In the quarters, the No. 7 seeds thrashed the No. 4 seeds Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech republic and Alexander Peya of Austria 6-3 6-1. They then overcame the unseeded duo of Su-Wei Hsieh (Chinese Taipei) and Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) 6-1 6-2. In Sunday’s final, Paes and Hingis broke their opponents’ serve on five occasions to win in straight sets.

“The Rod Laver Arena is one of my favourite tennis stadiums,” Paes revealed. “This is where I reached my first Grand Slam final as a junior 25 years ago. Today’s final was a mental battle of having patience against a very powerful team. Once we were able to neutralise their power from their serves and first returns, then our speed and shot making was undeniable,” he added.

Paes and his former live-in partner Rhea Pillai are fighting a legal battle for the custody of their young daughter, Aiyana. Even though Paes didn’t elaborate on his personal struggles, one must salute his grit. However can someone maintain poise under such pressure!

“I thank the Lord up above for a blessed career and standing by me through good and tough times. Martina and I also play together on the Washington Kastles team, so there’s good understanding between us,” he said.

At the post-match press conference, Paes reiterated his support for Hingis. “My target is to get Martina her Career Grand Slam. That’s my goal. If it takes me two years, so be it. That’s my goal,” he said.

Incidentally, both Paes and Hingis have completed the Career Slam in men’s and women’s doubles, respectively. Paes is a French Open away from completing his tally in mixed doubles. He had the final way back in 2005. Hingis has yet to win the mixed doubles title at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.

Tomas Berdych hammers Rafael Nadal to end 17-match losing streak

Tomas Berdych handed Rafael Nadal one of the heaviest defeats of his celebrated grand slam career on Tuesday, sending the 14-time major winner crashing out of the Australian Open.

In a spectacular reversal after enduring a “record” 17 straight losses to the champion Spaniard, Berdych humbled Nadal 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) in a quarter-final boilover at Melbourne Park.

“I was ready for everything and that was the biggest difference,” Berdych said. “We set up a plan very well and I stuck to it for three sets.”

The imposing Czech’s reward is a semi-final showdown with either Andy Murray or Australian teenage star Nick Kyrgios for a spot in Sunday’s title match.

The seventh seed — whose nine-year losing streak against Nadal included the 2010 Wimbledon final — broke the Spaniard five times in avoiding an inglorious place in the history books.

Another defeat and Berdych would have been the first man in the 47-year open era to lose 19 consecutive matches to a rival.

Instead, Berdych joined Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as only the second man to claim the grand slam scalps of Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Widely regarded as the best player yet to win a major, Berdych now believes he can finally break through at Melbourne Park.

“I’m ready,” Berdych said. “I’m feeling strong and confident and I want to go all the way.”

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Nadal came into the tournament insisting he wasn’t a serious title contender after playing just eight matches since Wimbledon due to back and wrist injuries, and an appendectomy in October.

He dodged a bullet in the third round against lowly-ranked American qualifier Tim Smyzcek but appeared to be working his way into the championship after winning his next two matches in straight sets.

But Berdych brutally exposed his lack of match preparedness, striking 46 winners to 24.

A semi-finalist in Melbourne for the first time last year, Berdych was on top from the outset.

Nadal gifted him the first break of the match with a string of unforced errors in the fourth game.

Berdych broke Nadal for a second with a powerful backhand cross-court winner to take the opening set after 35 minutes.

It was only the second time in his nine-year losing streak against Nadal that he’d won the first set against the Spaniard.

But unlike the previous occasion — in the quarter-finals in Melbourne three years ago — Berdych did not relent.

Two clean forehand winners and another Nadal backhand error earned the Czech an early break in the second set.

If Nadal wasn’t in huge strife then, he certainly was after double-faulting to fall behind 4-0.

Worse was to come, with Berdych dishing out Nadal’s first bagel at a slam since Roger Federer secured the first set 6-0 in the 2006 Wimbledon final.

Down two sets to love, Nadal had to make a stand.

He did, fighting off a break point at 3-4 in third set with his biggest serve of the match.

The 2009 Open champion then mustered two break points of his own in the next game to raise hopes of a comeback, only for Berdych to come up with two huge aces under pressure.

With Nadal down 5-6 and 15-40, Berdych had two match points to finish him off but had to wait until the tie-breaker, finally prevailing on his fourth match point after two hours and 13 minutes.

Australian Open 2015: Federer makes shock exit as Murray sets up Dimitrov date

For the first time in 12 years, Roger Federer won’t be featuring in the Australian Open semi-finals after suffering a shock 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (7-5) third-round exit to Italy’s Andreas Seppi.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion had never lost to Seppi in 10 previous meetings, but made some uncharacteristic errors on Friday, with nine double-faults including one to surrender a mini break in the fourth-set tiebreaker.

Seppi, a 30-year-old Italian who had only advanced beyond the second round once at his nine previous trips to Melbourne Park, held his nerve despite some withering winners from Federer, who registered his 1,000th career match victory when he collected the Brisbane International title earlier this month to open the season.

Federer has won the Australian title four times, and had reached the semi-finals or better at Melbourne Park every year since winning the championship for the first time in 2004. He also had come back from losing the first two sets on nine previous occasions.

“I had to believe that I could win,” said Seppi, who said he stuck out his racket and hoped for the best on match point a forehand that sailed past Federer and landed in the corner. “I was just trying to stay relaxed and just focusing on every shot and to breathe calm and don’t get nervous.

“I think I did pretty well. Very well. I’m very happy I could manage the emotions.”

Did you know… it was only the second time in his last 43 Grand Slam tournaments that the Swiss star failed to at least reach the fourth round.

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Maria Sharapova survives two match points to progress to the third round

World No. 2 Maria Sharapova was on her way to a regulation win against her Russian compatriot Alexandra Panova. The qualifier, who had entered the tournament without a grand slam match win to her name, had just been dispatched 6-1 in the opening set by the five-time major winner. It had taken just 26 minutes. Roger Federer – next up on court – would have been forgiven for expecting action within the hour.

 

And then without warning, the flow of the match changed dramatically.

Federer’s estimated time of arrival was quickly pushed back, as Sharapova capitulated. Dropping the second set 6-2, and facing a 4-1 deficit in the third, the 2008 Australian Open winner was on the precipice of an early departure from this year’s tournament.

Panova, 25, kept on getting the ball back, and Sharapova kept on making unforced errors, 43 across the second and third sets.

In all four of the service games Sharapova lost during the match she committed a double-fault, including twice in the second set when facing a break point.

Twice staring down match points at 5-3 in the third, what had been a passive display to that point suddenly turned aggressive, as she at last took advantage of Panova’s tame second serve.

Two thundering forehand winners sandwiched an equally telling backhand drive. The “on” button was finally activated, and Sharapova again showed her Tarzan-like fighting qualities, which belie her well-documented Jane-like appearance.

“I think my thought process through the match until that point was pretty negative,” Sharapova said after the match.

“I was dwelling too much on my mistakes and what I was doing wrong.

“I was thinking about it too much instead of just being in the present, saying, Hey, go up to the line; do what you do; do what you’ve done thousands of times. I’m good at that and I’ll continue to be good at that. But some days are just a little off. Today was one of them.”

The change in fortunes stemmed from an altered mindset. Once the second match point had been saved, Sharapova ran away with proceedings. She served two aces in the 12th game of the match, and dropped just three further points on her way to a 7-5 victory in the decider.

“I just really tried to take it a point at a time and think positively.”

Sharapova conceded after the match that she had known little about her 150th-ranked opponent before their clash. She now has 152 minutes of data to call upon if she ever faces her again.

Even once the women’s second seed was done, the surprises didn’t end.

Federer, the second-seeded man, dropped the opening set of his match against Italian journeyman Simeone Bolelli. That he then received medical attention for a finger ailment gave cause for those watching to believe that he, too, would have to work overtime for the win. Those fears were soon allayed, however, with the 17-time grand slam champion careering away to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in a little over two hours.

Neither the 33-year-old, nor the physio who checked, could quite put their finger on what had been causing his finger trouble.

“It’s the weirdest thing, it just felt really odd.”

“I feel like it’s numb and swollen.”

He didn’t seem too concerned though, guessing that perhaps it was a bee sting or something similar.

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Sania Mirza coasts to opening round win in women’s doubles

Melbourne: The Indo-Taiwanese pair of Sania Mirza and Hsieh Su-wei got their Australian Open tennis tournament campaign off to a strong start, winning their first round match 6-2, 6-0 against Maria Irigoyen of Argentina and Romina Oprandi of Switzerland on Wednesday.
Sania, who recently reached her career best doubles ranking of No.5 for the second time, started the match in a dominating fashion at the Melbourne Park.
The Indo-Taiwanese pair asserted their dominance early in the match and ultimately hit 23 winners compared to a mere eight by their opponents.

Sania Mirza and Hsieh Su-wei