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Saturday, April 20, 2024

We are the team to beat: Sania Mirza

BANGALORE: To close the argument that won him his 12th Grand Slam title Mahesh Bhupathi stepped aside, then leaned into that trusted shot — his double-fisted backhand — and let it rip.After 73-minutes of action on an windy Parisian night, the all-Indian combine of Bhupathi and Sania Mirza clinched their second Grand Slam mixed doubles title as a team, beating the unseeded pairing of Klaudia Jans-Ignacik of Poland and Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 in the French Open final late on Thursday.The powerful 25-year-old Hyderabadi, who held the team together at the start of the final when Bhupathi seemed to have left his best shots behind in the locker room, promptly declared that the twosome “were the team to beat”. Sania and Bhupathi won their first Grand Slam title together in 2009 (Australian Open) which incidentally was the last major title Bhupathi won before Thursday.In the past fortnight Sania was scintillating from the back of the court while the Bangalorean was sharp at the net: together they make-up one of the best returning teams on the Tour.Bhupathi, who turned 38 on Thursday, dedicated the win to his four-month old daughter Saira. “This title has come after a long time,” he said during the presentation ceremony, “it is my first title after my daughter was born. This is for her.” An ecstatic Sania told the gathering, “It’s Mahesh’s birthday today and I am glad we won because now I don’t have to think of a gift for him.”Bhupathi won his first Grand Slam title in Roland Garros 15-years ago — the mixed doubles crown with Japanese Rika Hiraki. “I wasn’t worried that it had been a while since I won a Grand Slam title, last year I made two finals. If I hadn’t made those finals I would have been worried, but when you put yourself in contention often enough, it is bound to click some time.”Bhupathi, who has 12 Grand Slam titles (four men’s doubles and eight mixed), hadn’t won a mixed doubles title with the same partner twice. “I was worried about that,” he said, “It’s good to get it out of the way. I enjoy playing with Sania, we are good friends & we make a good team.”Sania, who called Hesh one of the best doubles players ever, said, “He’s a very close friend and we share great chemistry on court, lifting each other’s spirits and games when the chips are down. We have shown once again that we are a tough team to beat. I am hopeful about getting a wild card for the Olympics.”The Indian pair, who took home euros 100,000 for the win, will play in Wimbledon together and if they get lucky, the Olympics too. Sania added, “This title is even more special as there have been moments in the last five years (in which I’ve undergone three surgeries), when I felt I might never be able to play again.”

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