Chennai: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi recorded their first tour win as a team since 2004 when they outplayed the first-time combination of Robin Haase and David Martin 6-2, 6-7 (3), 10-7 to annex their fifth ATP Chennai Open doubles crown here on Sunday.
The top seeded Indian duo who last won here 2002 and are preparing for this month's Australian Open, the only Grand Slam silverware missing in their showcase, were far too experienced for the Dutch-American combo.
The Indian pair thus clinched their 24th doubles crown together from 34 finals while sharing a winner's purse of $22,000 while the vanquished were richer by $11,600 after a thrilling one hour, 45-minute encounter.
It was a highly emotional climax for Paes and Bhupathi who in a way relived the salad moments of their youth with some slick play marked by their patented "chest bumps" towards the end of the match.
The last time Paes and Bhupathi combine won a tour title was at the Canadian Masters and though they came together in representative ties, never played together on the circuit until they decided to re-unite here keeping in mind the elusive Australian Open crown.
Both Paes and Bhupathi looked sharp and decisive as they controlled the net, but were not consistent enough, especially in the second set that saw Martin and Haase executing a stream of winners to stay afloat. Again, it was the super experience of the Indians that helped them to ride the tide.
The first set was a virtual cakewalk for the experienced Indian duo who went 1-0 up on two breaks of serve in the second and eighth, but then had to weather some stiff resistance from their opponents.
The second set went with serves after trading breaks in the third and fourth as the inevitable tie-break loomed. In the tie-break, with Martin serving thunderbolts, the visitors opened a big lead early to force the super set.
In the super set, Haase and Martin opened up a 4-1 lead, but two good serves from Paes followed by an unforced error by Haase helped the Indians tie at 4-4.
The Indians moved to 5-4 on a Haase double fault and then Bhupathi aced for a two-point lead (6-4). Although the Haase-Martin combine never quite gave up, contributing to the dramatic finish.
Finally, it was Bhupathi who pulled out two brilliant winners, the last a forehand that he fired between the two rivals on championship point.
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