12 years after he won mixed doubles trophy at Australian Open with Martina Navaratilova, Leander Paes of India has done it again. Only his partner this time was a different Martina. Paes is known for forging new pairings and in Switzerland’s Martina Hingis, he found a perfect combination. In Sunday’s mixed doubles final, Paes and Hingis defeated Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-3 and emerged as 2015 Australian Open mixed doubles champions. On Saturday, men’s doubles crown was won by Italians, Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli, who defeated Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-4. In two other finals, unseeded 16-year old Slovak Tereza Mihalikova took the Girls Trophy by beating 4th seed Katie Swan of Great Britain and top-seed Roman Safiullin of Russia won the Boys’ singles title by defeating South Korea’s Seong-chan Hong.
The mixed doubles final preceded the all-important men’s singles final on Sunday. In her own right, Hingis is a 16 times Grand Slam winner, who has come out of retirement twice. Before her first break from tennis, Hingis had already won seven Australian Open singles and doubles titles and the ninth crown came on Sunday with India’s Leander Paes. Incidentally, Hingis’ first mixed doubles championship in 2006 also involved an Indian, when she won her eighth Australian open title with Mahesh Bhupathy. Paes/Hingis reached the final by defeating Taiwanese Su-Wei Hsieh and Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas 7-5, 6-0. In the final, they faced defending champions Canada’s Daniel Nestor and France’s Kristina Mladenovic, who had upset top seeds Sania Mirza of India and Bruno Soares of Brazil in semifinals. The multiple Melbourne champion Hingis also benefitted from huge crowd support for her. As the match began, Paes/Hingis were down 0-3 against the power and craft of their opponents. Just when it seemed that the French-Canadian pair would sweep the first set, Paes/Hingis found back their games. Showing great reflexes at the net, they staged a turnaround and began causing trouble to their opponents. With Paes dancing at the net and Hingis hitting accurately from baseline, the no.7 seeds earned a break-point courtesy a wild swing from Mladenovic. Serving to save the set at 4-5, Nestor committed a double fault and Paes/Hingis pocketed the first set 6-4. Early in the second set, the French-Canadian pair broke Paes/Hingis to lead 2-1 but that didn’t last long as Paes/Hingis broke right back. Some vital errors from Mladenovic allowed Paes/Hingis to take a 4-2 lead. Regardless, Nestor/Mladenovic forced a break and threatened to come back in the match. But Paes/Hingis used deft touches and fine returns to move their opponents around from place to place in their side of the court and made several errors. The match was finished, when Hingis hit a smash that Mladenovic couldn’t handle. The 6-4, 6-3 victory gave Paes/Hingis their first Grand Slam trophy together.
Italians Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli won men’s doubles crown by defeating Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in straight sets. In a clash of unseeded pairs, Fognini/Bolelli emerged as the first Italian pair to win a Grand Slam since Nicola Pietrangeli/Orlando Sirola won French Open in 1959. Trading early breaks, the Italian and French teams looked equally matched in first set until a sizzling service from Mahut found the back of Herbert’s head. Though Mahut held his serve, Herbert looked shaken. The effect of the hit showed, when Herbert served, made some unforced errors and conceded the break. Bolelli held his serve as the Italians took the first set 6-4. In the second set, despite an unseemly controversy over a double-hit by Mahut, the teams were on level terms. Later, Mahut dropped his serve to lend an edge to the Italians. Bolelli served and created a match-point with an ace and closed the match on the next serve, when Herbert’s return was too long.
The Girl’s singles title was won by Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia. The 16-year old played marvelously to beat UK’s 14th seed Katie Swan, who was the media favorite. The Slovak played steadily and raced to a commanding 5-0 lead in the first set. Swan, 15, recovered somewhat but after saving a set point lost the first set 6-1. Swan needed medical treatment after first set but when she came back, Tereza saw her weak side and took full advantage and despite the Brit showing signs of improvement, Tereza finished the match 6-1, 6-4.
In Boy’s singles final, top seed Russian Roman Safiullin beat South Korea’s Seong-chan Hong 7-5, 7-6 in a quality match. After a tough match between two equally matched contenders, Safiullin was visibly relieved that it was over. It was a duel with two lads of contrasting styles. Hong was more tactical as against Safuillin’s power game. The tall Russian finally emerged as the Boy’s champion.
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