Max Mirnyi is popularly known as 'The Beast' on the ATP Tour. But if there could have been any award for good behaviour on court on Friday, the Belarussian would have won it hands down.
The cool Mirnyi and his Indian partner Mahesh Bhupathi slugged it out for a place in the final with Leander Paes and David Rikl, and now the top seeds will meet Todd Woodbridge and Jonas Bjorkman in the final.
Leander-Rikl took the first set in tie-break and looked to be cruising, but the bigger question was whether they could sustain the tempo, as Mahesh-Mirnyi were in no mood to give free points.
Services games were completed in a jiffy and Mahesh could have been broken in the 11th game of the first set. At 30-40, Rikl struggled with his footing and lost the point, thereby allowing Mahesh to hold serve. That one point was perhaps a sign of things to come, as Rikl's form dipped sharply in the closing stages of the match even though Leander was pretty pumped up. Once into the first set tiebreak, Mahesh volleyed long on his own serve to give the fifth seeds the set point.
Leander grabbed that chance as he then made a lunging volley to close out the set. Leander, still quick and sharp with lovely hand-eye coordination; Rikl a left-hander with an uncanny ability to slice and dice; Mahesh so effective with his sharp returns from the ad court and Mirnyi serving big and not sparing any ball which had to be 'killed.' Who would you want to win in such a match?
In the second set, games went with serve till 4-4. In the ninth game, Leander struggled with his serve and was quickly down 0-30. The break for the top seeds came soon and Mirnyi had no trouble in serving out the set.
One set all --- it could have been anybody's game from here. Leander was pumped up. His body language certainly suggested he was hungry for one more win. The Kolkatan kept chatting with Rikl during changeover and was in a hurry to get through with points. Well, Leander is the last guy who can hide his emotions, and when they made a hash of the break points that came their way in the third set, he grimaced.
One more tiebreak, and the big servers were going to feast on it.
Fourth set. Overcast skies, but no sign of rain. The match was slipping away from Leander and Rikl. The Czech made unforced errors in the sixth game when he was serving. The formalities were completed even more quickly as just three more games were needed for the match to be decided.
On Thursday, Paes and Martina Navratilova entered the mixed doubles quarters dumping the Australian pair Peter Luczak and Christina Wheeler 6-4, 6-2. However, Mahesh Bhupathi and Paulo Suarez lost to Nenad Zimonjic and Iroda Tulyaganova.