Indian tennis star Leander Paes and his Swiss partner Martina Hingis beat the French-Canadian team of Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor in straight sets to clinch the Australian Open mixed doubles crown at Melbourne on Sunday. Paes, contesting his 25th season on the ATP World Tour, and Hingis defeated defending champions Mladenovic and Nestor 6-4, 6-3 in the final that lasted an hour and two minutes.
Paes has now won 15 Grand Slam championship titles - eight men’s doubles and seven mixed doubles. It was his third mixed doubles triumph at Melbourne Park, having also won in 2003 (with Martina Navratilova) and 2010 (with Cara Black).
“It’s a great honour to keep coming back to Australia,” said 41-year-old Paes. “There are a few people who got us together. All you guys back home, who put us together to win our first Grand Slam, thank you.”
In the first set, Paes and Hingis took a 3-0 lead, but Nestor and Mladenovic’s I-formation caused problems and they soon levelled the scoreline. At 4-5, a backhand drive volley error by Mladenovic gave Paes and Hingis a set point opportunity on Nestor’s serve. He struck a double fault to end the 29-minute first set.
Nestor and Mladenovic broke Hingis for a 2-1 lead in the second set, but Mladenovic was broken in the next game. Net errors by Nestor paved the way to hand Paes and Hingis a 4-2 lead, but Nestor regained his rhythm on return of serve to break Hingis again. Mladenovic was broken in the eighth game and Hingis went on to seal victory with a smash winner.
Paes and Hingis converted five of their seven break point opportunities, hitting 19 winners and committing just 11 unforced errors for victory on Rod Laver Arena. Former World No.1 Hingis also won the Australian Open mixed doubles title in 2006 (with Mahesh Bhupathi). “(We were) probably just maybe a little less aggressive on some second serves to Hingis,” said Nestor.
Nestor said, "They played better for sure. Even when I thought I was serving okay, they were still making a lot of balls. They played well."
Djokovic reigns supreme
Serbian Novak Djokovic on Sunday firmly established himself as the king of Melbourne's blue hardcourts with his fifth Australian Open title. The 27-year-old, limping from two slips on court, breathing heavily and battling a "physical crisis", overcame a fired-up Andy Murray 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-3 6-0 to clinch his fourth Australian title in the past five years. It was his eighth grand slam title overall.
He also overcame a slight shift in momentum in the second set when security staff had to remove a group of people, two of whom managed to jump on court but did not get near the players, protesting Australia's policy on refugees. "We both, of course, went through some tough moments physically," Djokovic said. "I went through the physical crisis in the matter of 20 minutes... end of the second, beginning of the third.
"Just felt very exhausted and I needed some time to regroup and recharge and get back on track. That's what I did."
Since Djokovic won his first grand slam title in 2008 he has compiled a 47-3 record in Melbourne. His reign means he has the record for most Australian Open titles in the Open era, one behind Australia's Roy Emerson who dominated in the 1960s.
"This tournament by far has been my most successful tournament in my life, in my career. I enjoy playing here, enjoy coming back," he said.
Despite Murray's poor record against the Serb - he had lost seven of their past eight encounters - he had arguably entered the final as the slight favourite. Djokovic had struggled in his semi-final against defending champion Stan Wawrinka, while Murray played superbly to beat seventh seed Tomas Berdych in a tempestuous clash.
Murray's celebrations in the victory over Berdych highlighted the raging competitiveness that exists inside the 27-year-old boxing fan as he repeatedly mimicked punching an imaginary opponent into the ground.
Fittingly, Murray and Djokovic were involved in a tense boxing match on Sunday, examining each other for any weakness, landing a body blow, taking one themselves, or counter punching as they scrambled around trying to stay alive. Several times, Murray had Djokovic wobbling and down on one knee, ready to be finished off and he knew it.
But the knockout blow never came and Murray felt afterwards Djokovic's problems on court may have had an element of gamesmanship, lulling him into a false sense of anticipation that he could be on the verge of his third grand slam title.
Serena beats Sharapova to win Australian Open title
Serena Williams won her 19th Grand Slam title, continued her unbeaten run in six Australian Open finals and extended her decade-long domination of Maria Sharapova with a commanding 6-3, 7-6 (5) win on Saturday night.
Williams, coughing frequently and still affected by a recent cold, controlled the first set around a rain delay in the sixth game, when the match was stopped for 13 minutes for the roof to be closed.
Top-ranked Williams returned from the break and fired an ace to start a run of six straight points. She was broken while serving for the set but broke Sharapova for a third time to clinch it.
She is now second only to Steffi Graf (22) on the list of major winners in the Open era. The 33-year-old Williams, the oldest winner of the Australian women's title in the Open era, won the first six points of the second set and seemed on course for another lopsided victory before Sharapova hit back in a gripping second set.
Sharapova saved a match point in the 10th game, bravely hitting a forehand winner down the line and twice held serve to stay in the match. She forced a tiebreaker and then took the first point off Williams when she leaped into a service return down the line. But Williams rallied again and relied on her serve to keep the points short. She fired 15 of her 18 aces in the second set, including one on her third match point to seal the match. Williams has now won 16 in a row and is 17-2 in career matches against five-time major winner Sharapova, who hasn't won a head-to-head meeting since 2004.