NEW DELHI: Leander Paes notched his 18th Grand Slam title as the Indian great lifted the French Open mixed doubles title partnering Swiss partner Martina Hingis after a 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 win over Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig in the final on Friday.
The 42-year-old Paes — the format’s most successful male player in the Open era with ten titles — also completed the career Grand Slam in mixed doubles and bettered his record of the oldest player to win a Major title. For his 35-yearold partner Hingis — who partnered Paes to three Grand Slam triumphs last year — Friday’s title was the fifth mixed doubles Grand Slam and 22nd overall.
Both teams were forced to play their quarters and semifinals on Thursday due to a cramped schedule at rain-hit Roland Garros.
The first set went to the wire with all four holding serve with ease. The decisive break came on Leander’s serve in the tenth game. Mirza earned the break point with a well-placed lob and converted it after countering Leander’s smash with a ripping forehand past Hingis as the second seeds took the first set 6-4.
Second set began with Dodig and Paes wrapping up service games quickly. In the third game, Paes and Hingis decided to go after Mirza’s serve and earned three break points. Quick hands from Dodig and errors from the veterans saw two wasted, but Paes-Hingis converted the third to take a crucial 2-1 lead. Things again went awry for Paes in his service game. Up 40-15 in the sixth, the Paes-Hingis pair lost the next three points to concede the serve back.
Following a guttural yell of anguish from Paes, the pair immediately went after Mirza’s faltering serve and secured the break back in the next game. Hingis held a nervy game to consolidate the lead at 5-3. Dodig saved a set point but Paes served a whirlwind game to secure the second set 6-4. Much like the two sets, the super tie-break was also a topsy-turvy affair, with both teams exchanging mini breaks. In an almost script-like fashion, Paes fired down a serve and partner Hingis ended the rally with a cross-court forehand to win the championship.