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Title eludes Indian duo, once again

Calcutta/Melbourne: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi could not stop Mike and Bob Bryan from scoring a hattrick of titles at the Melbourne Park here, on Saturday. The Indian duo could not fulfil their dream of winning the Australian Open trophy to complete their career Slam after reuniting after nine years.

They lost 3-6, 4-6 to the top seeded American twins in the summit clash of the men’s doubles event, which lasted a little over one hour. The Bryan brothers won their fifth Australian Open trophy but it slipped out of the hands of Paes and Bhupathi for the second time, having lost the title clash back in 1999.

They reached the final with different partners after separating but neither of the two players could complete the career Slam.

Paes made the final with Czech Republic’s Martin Damm in 2006, while Bhupathi ended runners-up with Bahamas’ Mark Knowles in 2009.

However, it is a fabulous start for the Indian pair in the 2011 season as they won the Chennai Open earlier this month.

Paes and Bhupathi last played at a Grand Slam together in 2002 when they lost in the second round.

Bhupathi said he would continue playing with Paes in the remaining season. “There is a reason why Mike and Bob are the No. 1 team. When they have a first serve percentage of 83, it is impossible to beat them.

“I thank my partner (Paes), it took the best team in the planet to stop this train. Looking forward to playing with you a lot more this year,” Bhupathi said.

“We lost to the best team on the planet. We had a great couple of weeks. We had a tough draw, pretty much played all the best teams in the world getting to the final. It was a perfect match. If they had not served 83 per cent first serves, but maybe 76 per cent, it could have maybe been a different story,” Paes added.

On playing with Bhupathi, Paes said: “We are committed to play a few more tournaments. The way we are feeling, the way we are playing, I think there is a good chance we will come back next year.”

During Saturday’s final, the Bryan brothers dominated as they served well and were miser on the unforced errors’ count but had the Indians converted the break chances in the very first game of the match, it might have been different.

Left-handed Bob served extremely well after being down 0-40 to lead 3-2 on serve.

The sixth game, in which the two pairs played a stunning 20-shot rally, turned the tide in favour of the defending champions as the Americans converted their first of the two break chances off Paes’ serve.

It was easy for the Americans from there on as Bob served out the set after just 29 minutes of play. The Indian duo did well to save a breakpoint in the fifth game of the second set but Bhupathi dropped his serve in the ninth game to hand the Americans the advantage.

Bob served out the set, match and the championship in the next game after saving another breakpoint. “We have tons of respect for those guys, they are legends, they are marquee, they can only make our game better,” Bob said. “It was just great to have the 'Indian Express' back on the doubles court. It was an extra special feeling out there.”

Bob also wished Paes luck for his film career. “Good luck to Leander for your Bollywood career,” he said.

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