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|June 6, 1999||
Bhupathi, Paes win first Grand Slam
They defeated the Croat-American pair of Goran Ivanisevic and Jeff Tarango in a rain-disrupted tie.
The Indians won in straight sets 6-2, 7-5 after play resumed. They led 6-2, 5-5 on Saturday when rain interrupted proceedings.
The Indian pair were losing finalists at the Australian Open earlier this year.
When they returned to a near empty centre court on Sunday, Paes and Bhupathi needed just eight minutes to finish off Ivanisevic and Tarango.
It was India's second Grand Slam title. Bhupathi and Rika Hiraki winning the mixed doubles title at Roland Garros in 1997.
"My first thought today was that all the hard work finally paid off," said Paes, the bronze medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. "It hasn't been two weeks of hard work, it's been three or four years.
"Now we look to end the year as number one and win as many Grand Slams and tournaments as we can," Paes said. The duo came to Roland Garros with their professional relationship coming under scrutiny in the Indian media. Both men were reported not to get along, a charge they denied vigorously.
''Our hard work paid off. It was not just two weeks but four years. Now we are greedy and want more,'' said Bhupathi. Paes added: ''We want to win as many tournaments and Grand Slams as possible.''
Tarango and Ivanisevic plan to team up together again, but not at Wimbledon this month.
Ivanisevic, a three-time losing finalist at Wimbledon, will concentrate on singles while the controversial Tarango will try to avoid stirring things up at the All-England Club.
Ivanisevic and Tarango had never played together before this tournament. Ivanisevic was a 1990 Roland Garros runner-up with Petr Korda and now had to swallow his fifth defeat in a Grand Slam final.
''It is another disappointment, but it was still a good week,'' said Ivanisevic, while Tarango pointed out: ''It was a pretty good effort to make it to the final in our first Grand Slam.''
Tarango admitted that he was the worst player of the four, dropping serve thrice en route to defeat: ''If it wasn't for me, Goran would have won. I had trouble serving because the balls were so heavy and for some reason Paes likes to return my serve.''
Ivanisevic said the two had taken the job seriously after agreeing a few weeks ago in Rome to play together.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee congratulated Leander and Mahesh for winning the title. ''You have done the country proud,'' he said in a message.
Mail Prem Panicker
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