Lee-Hesh storm into final after grim battle

Lee-Hesh storm into final after grim battle

Indian pair defeats Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor in semis

Indian double's pair of Leander Paes, left, and Mahesh Bhupathi wait to receive from Canada's Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi of Belarus during their double's semifinal at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. AP

They had re-joined forces at the start of the season with an aim to add that elusive Australian Open trophy to their respective Grand Slam cabinets and after beating Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 7-6(7-5), 4-6, 6-3 in the semifinals they are close to realising their dream.

The Indian-Express will clash with America’s two-time defending champions Mike and Bob Bryan, who steamrolled the unseeded duo of Eric Butorac and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-3, 6-2 in 54 minutes in the other semifinal clash.

The Bryan brothers are unbeaten at Melbourne Park in their last 17 outings. Paes and Bhupathi last played together at a Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 2002 when they reached the second round. They came into season-opening Grand Slam in good nick, clinching the Chennai Open.

Paes has won 12 Grand Slam titles and Bhupathi 11 in their respective careers but they have never won the Australian Open men’s doubles trophy. Interestingly, Bhupathi has not won a men’s doubles Grand Slam title since the 2002 US Open win with Mirnyi. Paes and Bhupathi have won three of the four Majors, but have twice come short of winning the Australian Open title.

They were runners-up together in 1999 and while Paes reached the final in 2006 with Martin Damm, Bhupathi did it in 2009 with Mark Knowles. The Bryans have a 9-8 record in major finals, while Bhupathi and Paes share a 3-2 mark.

In the semifinal Lee-Hesh had to work hard against Mirnyi and Nestor as both the pairs fought tooth and nail before the Indians prevailed. There was hardly anything to separate the two teams as they broke each other twice in the opening set, which was decided through a tie-break in the favour of the Indians. Paes and Bhupathi had their chances to clinch the issue in straight sets but squandered two breakpoints and dropped their own serve once to allow their rivals to take the match to the third set.

They did not repeat the mistake in the deciding set, booking their spot in final comfortably. Meanwhile, in the mixed doubles category Bhupathi’s campaign came to an abrupt end when he and partner Anastasia Rodionova of Australia gave a walkover to Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia and Canada’s Daniel Nestor in Thursday’s quarterfinal.

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