50 & counting: Paes completes a half-century of titles

Paes became only the 24th player in the ATP World Tour history to win 50 doubles titles

Written by Agencies | Miami | Published: April 2, 2012 3:51 am

Indian veteran Leander Paes became only the 24th player in the ATP World Tour history to win 50 doubles titles after he and Czech partner Radek Stepanek clinched the Sony Ericsson Open,their second trophy of the season.

The 38-year-old Paes and Stepanek,seeded seventh,rallied to upstage second seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 3-6 6-1 10-8 on Saturday. After dropping the first set,the Australian Open champions broke Mirnyi and Nestor twice in the second set to force a match tie-break. The Indo-Czech combination trailed 1-4 before winning six straight points to surge ahead. Stepanek closed out the victory with a volley to clinch the win in 82 minutes.

“Well,actually Radek came to me and said something simple on my service return (in the second set) and that changed the whole momentum of the match. I have got to give full credit to Daniel and Max,they started out amazingly,they were all over us in the first set,” a jubilant Paes said after the triumph. “Over all these years of playing,I have got to thank many partners,I have got to thank many coaches…I have to thank my father but most importantly my wonderful partner right now,Radek Stepanek,” he added.

Paes,who did a little celebratory jig with Stepanek after the match,collected his third straight crown at Crandon Park,having triumphed with Lukas Dlouhy in 2010 and Mahesh Bhupathi in 2011. “(It’s) really,really special. 50 tournaments takes a little doing. 600 matches takes a little bit of doing,” said Paes. “Having done a three peat here in Miami is awesome. Next year,I hope to start another one.”

An equally elated Stepanek said he felt honoured to team up with Paes. “We fought through it,and we got on top of them in the second set all the way,” said Stepanek. “We (were) the more aggressive,and,I would say,creative team in the tie-break,as well. That’s why we won. I am thankful to Lee for playing with me. It’s an honour to play with a legend,” he added.

Radwanska lifts women’s title

Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska used her wits to defeat world number two Maria Sharapova 7-5 6-4 to win the women’s singles and once again deny the Russian. Sharapova has now lost all four finals she has featured in at the Miami tournament and all three she has played in this year.

Radwanska’s victory was her second of the year and arguably her most valuable one. “I’m just very,very happy that I have been able to play my best tennis since the beginning of the year. Let’s hope I can continue,” said Radwanska,who is aiming this year to push for a first Grand Slam title. “I will never be able to serve like Maria but I try different things and mix it up,” she added.

The Pole,ranked fourth in the world,won the tournament without losing a set and showed exactly why with a classy display that left Sharapova scurrying around. There was characteristically little emotion from Radwanska,beyond a timid half-raising of her arms,when Sharapova went long on the final point to hand her victory. But that was typical of the businesslike way Radwanska went about beating the Russian.

In the first set,Radwanska,in control of her service game,survived break point in the fifth game but that was a rare opening for her opponent. The set was heading to a tie-break when Sharapova,down 6-5,suddenly lost her previously solid service game. She produced two loose shots and then a volley into the net to leave her trailing 0-40 in the game and although the Pole wobbled with two tame returns into the net,Sharapova failed to clear the net herself to hand her opponent the set.

It was a similar story in the second set — both players solid on serve but Radwanska coming out on top when it mattered at the conclusion of the set.

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