One more to Slam

Paes and Bhupathi's bid for a career Grand Slam runs into their toughest challenge as they take on top seeds, Mike and Bob Bryan, in the final of the Australian Open.
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Updated on Jan 28, 2011 02:08 AM IST
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Agencies | By, Melbourne

Third seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes will attempt to complete their individual career Grand Slams when they face off against four-time champions and top seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan in the Australian Open doubles final on Saturday.

The Bryans dismissed the unseeded duo of Eric Butorac and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-3, 6-2 in 54 minutes on Thursday, winning three of five break point chances to cruise into their seventh Melbourne final in eight years.

Bhupathi and Paes were made to work harder for their place in the championship match, prevailing against No. 2 seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 20 minutes.

Nestor made an uncharacteristic error in the sixth game of the decisive set, pushing a floating backhand volley wide to give the Indians a break point chance, and Bhupathi capitalised as he hit a scorching forehand winner off a big Nestor first serve. Bhupathi then rallied from 15-40 on his serve in the final game, including an ace out wide past Nestor to get to deuce.

The Bryans have made six of the past seven finals at Melbourne Park, and are chasing their fifth title.

Bhupathi, 36, and Paes, 37, reunited this season with hopes of completing a career Grand Slam. Both players have won three of the four majors, but have twice come short of winning the Australian Open title.

"Chemistry-wise we are two of the best teams on the tour, and it is the perfect final at the Australian Open," Bhupathi said of Saturday's match.

The volatile Indian pair, seeded third, were involved in a contentious second-round match when Spain's Feliciano Lopez and Argentina's Juan Monaco complained they'd been goaded by comments from Paes. Officials stepped in to cool things down when the four confronted each other on court after the match.

The Bryans said they knew the Paes-Bhupathi reputation and were welcoming the challenge. "We would love to have a shot at the Indians," Mike Bryan said after their win but before the other semifinal had been decided. "That would be a pretty feisty match."

The American twins last year became officially the best men's pair in tennis, reaching 67 career titles and adding the US and Australian Opens to their Grand Slam wins, for nine in total. The Bryans have a 9-8 record in major finals, while Bhupathi and Paes, teaming up in Grand Slams for the first time since the 2002 Australian Open - share a 3-2 mark.

Both teams have played each other dozens of times, but not in a Grand Slam final. Each of the Indian players has faced the Bryans in the final of the Australian Open, but not together. Bhupathi and Mark Knowles lost the 2009 title to the Bryans, and Paes and Dlouhy lost to them in 2006.

The two teams have split their previous two meetings, both in 2001, with Bhupathi and Paes winning in the Atlanta semi-finals and the Bryans at the same stage at the Queen's Club.

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