A few hours after the Indian cricket team was crowned world champions, the perennial heroes of Indian tennis regained their place on the top of the world rankings.
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi overcame a first-set deficit to beat Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 6-7(5), 6-2, 10-5 in the final of the Miami Masters on Saturday. The Indian third seeds will replace Mike and Bob Bryan as the No.1 men's doubles team in the ATP rankings, when they are released on Monday.
Paes is now a two-time reigning champion after winning the event last year with Lukas Dlouhy, while Bhupathi earned his first career title at Crandon Park. It was their first Miami title as a team.
"The key [to us winning] was just fighting as a team. Like Leander said, we didn't play our best match of the week. All four of us were tentative in the beginning," Bhupathi said after the match.
The Indian tandem served for the first set up 6-5, but didn't close it out, and never had a lead in the tie-break. Some well-struck returns by the Belarusian-Canadian duo helped the No. 2 seeds win a tight first set.
Paes and Bhupathi re-united at the beginning of the year and won their second title in Miami. They had won the Chennai Open and followed it with a run to the final of the Australian Open. They were the No.2 team on the charts heading into the 1000-point event. But with the Bryan brothers losing in the second round, Paes-Bhupathi will take over the top spot.
"It's still early for us. The season is broken down into four segments - this is just the first of them. If we're still No. 1 after the US Open, then we'll start getting excited," said Bhupathi.
He added the Indian cricket team's triumph also spurred them on. The two watched the final against Sri Lanka via a live stream and knew the result heading into their match. "It gave us extra motivation. It's a big deal for our country and kudos to the whole team."
The Indians will next head to the Monte-Carlo Masters, beginning on April 10, which will kick-start the clay season. Paes finished runner-up to Nestor and Zimonjic with Dlouhy last year at the French Open, after he and the Czech won it in 2009. He is excited to transition into the clay-court season.
"We love playing on the dirt. We got a month off now to get ourselves physically fit and get ready for a lot of long matches on the clay," Paes said.
"The clay definitely helps us because we train so hard for it over the years but at the same time there are a lot of singles guys who play well on the dirt too. At the French Open, I think it's one of the hardest slams to win, but if we're physically right, I think it will be good."
(With inputs from atpworldtour.com)
Azarenka wins title
KEY BISCAYNE, Florida: Shrieking with every shot, Victoria Azarenka won the Sony Ericsson Open for the second time by beating Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-4 in Saturday's final. The No. 8-seeded Azarenka was the steadier player and swept nine consecutive games to take charge.
Sharapova committed 43 unforced errors, held serve only once and came up short with a late comeback bid.
"I played real well the first set," Azarenka said. "Maria is such a great fighter, I knew she was going to fight to the end."
Azarenka also won at Key Biscayne in 2009, halting Serena Williams. The two titles are the biggest of the Belarussian's career. Sharapova, whose most recent title was at Strasbourg in May 2010, has lost her past four finals. She fell to 0-3 in finals at Key Biscayne, where she was the runner-up in 2005 and 2006.