Leander Paes won the battle of Indians as well as his 10th Grand Slam title after defeating old pal Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles in the US Open men’s doubles final along with his partner Luaks Dlouhy on Sunday.
Fourth seeds Paes and Czech Dlouhy scripted a sensational 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win in the championship match over third seeds Bhupathi and his Bahamian partner.
The match was heading for a straight-set wash out for Bhupathi and Knowles but Paes enlivened the match with his inspiring play and changed the complexion of the game.
His sparkling play infused life into the match and Dlouhy complemented him well to emerge winners after a confidence shaking first set lapse.
For Paes it is his fifth men’s doubles Grand Slam crown, 41st overall, and second with Dlouhy.
It was also second title of the year for the seasoned Paes, who won French Open in June along with Dlouhy.
The defeat for Bhupathi means that he has not won a men’s doubles Grand Slam crown in seven years. Interestingly, his last victory came at the US Open only when he triumphed with Max Mirnyi in 2002.
He had won the Australian Open mixed doubles title with Sania Mirza at the start of the season.
Bhupathi and Knowles made a spiffing start by opening up a 2-0 lead after breaking Paes in the second game but their rivals retaliated by breaking the Bahamian in the third.
Paes’ backhand slice return off Knowles’ service earned them a breakpoint which they converted when the Indian fired a volley between their rivals, making the score 2-2.
Paes dropped his serve again in the sixth game but Knowles this time made amends and held his serve in the next to earn a 5-2 cushion.
Bhupathi, who served with great control all through, had no problem in sealing the first set in the ninth game.
Paes and Dlouhy overcame a disastrous start to the second set and played enthralling tennis with emotions flying high.
Dlouhy dropped his serve in the first game and Knowles held his to shot up to 2-0 lead but Paes and Dlouhy won four games in a row to go up 4-2.
The sixth game produced scintillating tennis as Paes hit some stunning and measured service return winners to earn as many as five breakpoints and finally converted the last to break Bhupathi for the first time in the match.
However, Paes failed to hold his serve yet again in the next game but the damage was neutralised as Knowles too dropped his serve in the eighth game.
Dlouhy then served out the set, converting their third chance and the match stretched to the decisive third set.
Carrying on with the momentum, the Indo-Czech continued their good work and earned an early break.
Knowles’ double fault after Bhupathi’s unforced volley error in the third game gave their rivals that crucial opportunity to push for the win.
Paes and Dlouhy then saved three breakpoints in the next game, broke their rivals in the seventh game and served out the match in the eighth game at love.