It was possibly the fillip Leander Paes needed to put the messy tennis row behind him ahead of the London Olympics. And the Indian got mighty close to adding to his Grand Slam collection, as he and partner Elena Vesnina battled for more than two hours for the mixed doubles title under the closed roof at Wimbledon's Centre Court on Sunday.
But the fourth seeds had to settle for the runners-up plate as Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond clinched the title with a 3-6, 7-5, 4-6 victory.
It was Bryan's first mixed doubles crown at Wimbledon and Raymond's second, after she claimed the title with Paes back in 1999.Paes and Vesnina, who had beaten top seeds Liezel Huber and Bob Bryan, Mike's twin, in the semifinal, were playing chase for most of the first two sets. Having lost the first set 3-6, the Indo-Russian pair looked down and out as Bryan prepared to serve for the match at 5-4.
It took a couple of wobbly serves from Bryan and some inspired play from Paes-Vesnina stopped the Americans from sweeping to the victory podium in straight sets. During the Championships, when asked which stroke they would borrow from respective players to make a perfect tennis specimen, the Bryan brothers nominated Paes for his net play.
And the old hands were still working fast in the middle of the court. Paes-Vesnina won three games on the trot to win the set 7-5 and level the match, but could not carry the surge of energy into the third set.
Paes lost his serve in the opening game, and though they swiftly broke back, the Americans had been able to stem the tide. Vesnina dropped serve in the crucial seventh game, and then Bryan with another opportunity to close out the match at 5-4 did not make any mistake.
This was the second time this year that Paes-Vesnina had finished second best at a Grand Slam. They had also lost in the final of the Australian Open.
As for Paes, though he had to face defeat on Sunday, the run would be heartening considering he will be back at the famous courts of SW19 for the Olympics.