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Champs return to rousing welcome

India's Australian Open champions returned home on Monday to a frenzied reception, promising the country a bright tennis future. It was India's most successful Grand Slam ever with two titles from three finals.

sports Updated: Feb 02, 2009 23:40 IST

India's Australian Open champions returned home on Monday to a frenzied reception, promising the country a bright tennis future. It was India's most successful Grand Slam ever with two titles from three finals.

India unearthed a new champion in Yuki Bhambri, who won the boys title, while veteran Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza became the first Indian pair to win a mixed doubles title.

Bhupathi, who now has a whopping 11 Grand Slam titles to his name, finished runner-up in the men's doubles. India could not have asked for more.

Sania said on Monday winning the Australian Open mixed doubles with Bhupathi was the best way she could make a comeback to the international circuit.

While Yuki returned home as a star amid a chaotic reception, Bhupathi and Sania received a rousing welcome when they landed at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

"I never expected such a reception, so many people turning out to receive me is overwhelming. The feeling has finally begun to sink in," a starry-eyed Yuki said.

Sania said Indian tennis is looking up and the title would motivate her to win more.

"It is very special to win your first Grand Slam. After the injury it is a great way to come back. I am just living in the moment for now," said Sania.

For Bhupathi it was his 11th Grand Slam and seventh mixed doubles title.

"We played very well. We are excited and happy to come home for some rest. Yes, definitely we will continue this pair," he said.

The 34-year-old Bhupathi also finished runners-up in the men's doubles with Mark Knowles of the Bahamas. They lost to American twins Bob and Mike Bryan.

Sania, who was making a comeback from a wrist injury, is the first Indian woman to win a Grand Slam title.

In a big setback to the Indian Fed Cup team, Sania Mirza will miss the upcoming Group I Asia/Oceania zone tie, citing an abdominal injury.