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Lee-Hesh complete perfect comeback with fifth Chennai crown

By Bikash Mohapatra
Last updated on: January 09, 2011 23:07 IST
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Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi capped a glorious reunion by winning their fifth Chennai Open doubles title in a breathtaking final on Sunday.

The top seeds defied a late charge and beat the unseeded combination of Robin Haase and David Martin 6-2, 6-7 (3), 10-7 to win their 24th title (in their 34th final) together.

The win, in front of a vociferous capacity crowd, was their first in Chennai in nine years. The duo had won three straight titles between 1997 and 1999 and added to their collection in 2002.

"What is important is that we won," said Bhupathi, in the post-match conference.

His partner (Paes) did the elaboration bit. "The level of tennis improved remarkably in the second set. We had no break points in that having broken them twice in the first," explained Paes, adding, "That showed how much they improved their game.

"We had to change our thought process and go back to teamwork to ensure the match went in our favour."

It was the famed Indian Express pair's first ATP title in seven years – they last triumphed at the Toronto Masters in 2004. The duo had not featured in a final after their loss at 's-Hertogenbosch in 2008.

Leander Paes and Mahesh BhupathiSunday's win also served their basic purpose, as a perfect preparation for the year's first major – the Australian Open. Neither Paes nor Bhupathi has won the men's doubles title at Melbourne thus far in their careers.

The Indian Express, like they had done a day earlier, spared no effort in making, what seemed a dull match to start with, finish as a nerve-wracking finale.

The theatrics was there, so were the trademark chest-bumps -- this time on more occasions than one. However, what was lacking was the body language and athleticism that the duo (particularly Leander) is known for.

The manner in which they failed to retrieve certain balls, that they would have easily done a few years, is a clear indicator that the duo is racing against time.

As regards their opponent in the final, they were more than a match.

The Dutch-American duo, having joined forces for the first time, had accounted for two Indian pairs (one-and-a-half to be precise) in the previous rounds of the tournament.

The had got the better of Guangzhou Asiad gold medallists Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh in the opening round and had then ensured the exit of the Indo-Pak Express -- Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi -- in the quarter-finals.

On Sunday, they looked good to complete a personal hat-trick.

However, nerves as also the pressure of playing their first final in front of a partisan crowd, got the better of them in the final analysis.

Having lost the opening set in a jiffy -- Haase got broken in the second game and Martin in the eighth, the unseeded pair mounted a remarkable comeback to win the second set tie-break.

Having carried the momentum forward early in the super tie-break (they led 4-1), the duo lost the plot when it mattered the most.

Perhaps it was their inexperience that made them suffer. Perhaps it was the extremely partisan crowd that played a role in breaking their concentration.

Perhaps the reputation of their opponents eventually got the better of them.

Whatever may have been the case, their failure ensured the Indian fans had a memorable evening.

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