Melbourne: Indian tennis veteran Leander Paes praised his Czech partner Radek Stepanek for playing a crucial role in realising his dream of winning the Australian Open men’s doubles title Saturday.
Paes finally completed a career Grand Slam of winning all the four major tennis titles by winning the Australian Open men’s doubles event beating the World No.1 pair Bryan brothers, Mike and Bob, from the US in straight sets in the final at the Rod Laver Arena.
The Indo-Czech pair, who lost to the American twins in the Sydney International tournament in the run-up to the Open, won 7-6(7-1), 6-2. The title was Paes’s 13th Grand Slam, seventh in men’s doubles and first with Stepanek.
Paes said beating the World No.1 pair to achieve the title was special.
“I have to thank my partner Radek for putting me on his shoulders and carrying me through the week. I have played five finals against the brothers and lost three and you know how it feels,” Paes said.
Paes said the Bryans brothers are great ambassadors of the game. The American duo was also chasing their record 12th Grand Slam doubles title.
“I have highest regard for you guys (Bob and Mike). Great ambassadors of the game for the manner in which you conduct yourselves,” he said.
Paes, who was cheered by his former mixed doubles partner Martina Navratilova from the stand, thanked all for playing a crucial role in his career.
“To my daughter Aiyana and wife Rhea. Martina (Navratilova) for being such an inspiration and all the support staff,” he said.
Stepanek, for whom it was his first Grand Slam, became emotional.
“It’s tough to add to what Leander has said. This was one title that was missing and I am happy that I was by your side when you won it.
Also want to say ‘hi’ to my wife Nicol and I would be back soon,” he said.
Mike congratulated Paes for finally completing a career Grand Slam of winning all the four major tennis titles.
“Congratulations to Leander and Radek and best of luck for the rest of the season. We have loved coming here and playing for the past 15 years. The crowd is fantastic. I will be flying back tomorrow as my wife is due,” he said.