|Radek Stepanek and Leander Paes at Flushing Meadows, on Sunday (AFP)
New York: Leander Paes won his eighth career doubles Grand Slam title, the third at the US Open, when partnering Radek Stepanek, he outclassed the second-seeded pair of Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares at the Flushing Meadows, here, on Sunday.
The 6-1, 6-3 scoreline reflected the total dominance the Indo-Czech fourth-seeded duo had over their opponents. But Paes earned extra points from his fans as he went on to hug and comfort Peya after the match, who played with an injured lower back and had to take a medical time out mid-way through the second set.
As Paes hit a backhand volley to win the match in an hour and 12 minutes, an overjoyed Stepanek jumped into his arms and the celebrations lasted a few minutes on court.
Austria’s Peya and Brazilian Soares came to play in neon yellow tennis shirts, but that’s where all the colour was in their on-court presence. The fireworks all belonged to Paes and Stepanek, attired in a much more sedate white and black.
The first set saw Paes and Stepanek race to a 5-0 lead, and Soares managed to hold his serve in the sixth game, almost as a consolation. But Paes wrapped it up easily serving for the set and winning at 6-1. The first set lasted a mere 24 minutes.
The second set saw a little more resistance from the second seeds, though in the end it really didn’t matter. An early break saw Paes and Stepanek take a 2-0 lead, but the third game saw Soares dig deep to hold on to his serve.
The game went to deuce seven times, before Soares won his serve to make it 1-2. Stepanek held easily in the next, but the fifth game, with Peya serving, saw the Austrian buckle under pain. He was treated courtside, having asked for a medical time-out, and returned to play on.
But it was evident his back was giving trouble as he could hardly stretch and his serve and returns both became weaker. But he gamely held on to his serve to make it 2-3, and it almost seemed that Paes and Stepanek were a bit confused with the sudden change in Peya’s pace.
The set went with serves till the ninth game, when Peya was broken and the fourth seeds emerged worthy champions, having defeated both the first and second seeds in this meet.
In the semi-final, they had ended the hopes of the top-seeded Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Paes and Stepanek had won the 2012 Australian Open, and were runners-up here last year. Their on-court chemistry was ruled on Sunday as the combination of power and delicate touch-play proved to be lethal.
Paes and Stepanek did not lose a single service game, bearing testimony to their accuracy. The double faults they committed, unlike their opponents, did not come at crucial break points.
Paes ruled the court, using his powerful serve and volley game to advantage. And when needed, he came up with delicate drop shots at the net that left Peya and Soares flummoxed.
Stepanek proved to be the perfect foil to Paes’ aggression and came up with surprising winners that left their opponents stranded.
The match was one of the most one-sided finals seen at the US Open, with Peya and Soares hardly able to put up a fight.
They failed to do justice to their second-seed billing and it seemed that they were overwhelmed by the occasion from the moment they stepped on to the court.