Indian tennis veteran Leander Paes became only the 24th player in the ATP World Tour history to win 50 doubles titles after he and his Czech partner Radek Stepanek clinched the Sony Ericsson Open, their second team trophy of the season.
Paes and Stepanek, who were seeded seventh, rallied to upstage second seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 3-6 6-1 10-8 yesterday.
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 an unreturnable 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 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.
Mirnyi and Nestor finished runner-up for the second straight year, and were bidding to lift their third trophy in 2012, after successes in Brisbane and Memphis.