There were mixed fortunes for India’s top tennis stars on Saturday as Sania Mirza won the Connecticut Open title but Leander Paes squandered five match points to go down in the Winston-Salem final. Second seeds Mirza and Romania’s Monica Niculescu needed 1 hour 30 minutes to prevail over the unseeded Ukrainian-Chinese Taipei duo of Kateryna Bondarenko and Chia-Jung Chuang, 7-5, 6-4.
It was tough luck for the wildcard team of Paes and Andre Begemann of Germany. They were up 6-1 in the second set tie-break against fellow unseeded pair of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Henri Kontinen only to lose it by the slimmest of margins, 6-4, 6-7(6), 8-10. The final lasted a marathon 1 hour 54 minutes.
39th career title for Mirza
As for Mirza, this was the 39th title of her illustrious career and the seventh for her this year.
Her latest success prior to this week came at Cincinnati last Sunday alongside Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic. That victory over her former doubles partner Martina Hingis had made her the sole owner of the No. 1 ranking.
The Indian carried on that brilliant form into New Haven this week and dropped just one set en route to the final.
In the summit clash, the two pairs had an early exchange of breaks in the opening set before Mirza and Niculescu struck again in the eighth game to inch ahead 5-3. However, the Ukrainian-Chinese Taipei duo soon broke back to level the set at 5-5.
The second seeds made in-roads into their opponents’ service game once more to grab the first set 7-5.
The second set too was an up-and-down affair with momentum swinging both ways. After trading two pairs of breaks, Mirza and Niculescu sealed the title with a third break of serve.
Paes denied an ATP Tour-level title for the 20th straight year
At Winston-Salem, Leander and Begemann were in total control of the final with a one-set lead. After an exchange of breaks, once more they were the ones to race ahead to 6-1 in the second set tie-break. But they failed to convert any of their five match points which allowed Garcia-Lopez and Kontinen to come back and level the match.
Riding on that confidence, they edged out Paes and Begemann in the match tie-break.
This was the currently 72nd ranked Paes’ first ATP Tour-level final of the year in men’s doubles. He has lifted at least one title at this level for 19 years in a row.