Leander Paes, Martina Hingis complete mixed doubles Career Slam with French Open win
Paris: Veteran Indian tennis star Leander Paes completed a 'Career Slam' in mixed doubles with Swiss partner Martina Hingis with a hard-fought win over compatriot Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig at Roland Garros on Friday.
The unseeded Indo-Swiss pair eked out a 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 win over the second seeds in the summit clash that lasted one hour and 28 minutes.
42-year-old Paes had won Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles in 2015 with Hingis.
It was 18th Grand Slam title for Paes and 10th in the mixed doubles. For 35-year-old Hingis, it was Grand Slam title number 22nd and fifth trophy in the mixed doubles.
Despite being the oldest player on the court, Paes' alertness and presence of mind made a good difference to the outcome of the match. Whenever he saw little openings he converted those into points.
Playing with lot of passion, he put away volleys from ferocious returns of both Sania and Dodig and has staked claim to be in India's mixed doubles team at the upcoming Rio Olympics.
Dodig was excellent with his service games in the opening and hardly lost points. His powerful returns combined with Sania's powerful game made it very tough for Paes and Sania.
The opening set was on serve till the ninth game. Paes was serving to stay in the set and was broken. The chance came the second seeds' way when Hingis failed to put a ball back on court on return of Dodig. On the deciding decuce point, Sania hit a forehand winner past Hingis to seal the set.
Paes created a chance on Sania's serve in the third game of the second set. He pounced on a volley and hammered the ball hard beyond return. Sania and Dodig saved two break chances but the Croat buried the ball on the deciding point to hand the rivals an early break.
Hingis held her serve in the next to create a 3-1 cushion. In the sixth game, Paes double faulted at 30-15 and followed that with two backhand errors to drop his serve. It was back on serve and released the pressure on Sania and Dodig.
However, Hingis and Paes broke Sania immediately with Paes hitting a volley winner on Sania's return on the second breakpoint.
Hingis struggled with her first serve but managed to hold for team's 5-3 lead.
Dodig, who was serving extremely well, suddenly faced a breakpoint in the next game but absorbed the pressure with ease and saved two set points, closing the game with an ace.
It was now Paes serving for the set and he served extremely well to take the set and force a match tie-breaker.
Paes and Sania lost a point each on their serves and the two pairs were locked 4-4 but the Indo-Swiss pair zoomed to 8-6 lead with Paes winning two hard-fought points. But soon it was 8-all. Hingis smashed a backhand cross court winner to earn first match point and they sealed it when Dodig's forehand met the net.
The winners split 116000 Euros as prize money while Sania and Dodig got 58000 Euros as a team.
On the opening day of French Open, sixth seed Ons Jabeur and Dominic Thiem became the most high profile names to exit the clay court major.
The 20-year-old Pole, who won the title at Roland Garros in 2020, is over 2,000 points ahead of defending French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova in the new WTA rankings.
Carlos Alcaraz, who only turned 19 last Thursday, became the first player to beat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on clay at the same tournament on his way to a second Masters 1000 title in Madrid.