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Indian pair claim mixed crown

INDIA'S Sania Mirza won her first Grand Slam title yesterday while her partner added to his double-digit total.

Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi won the Australian Open mixed doubles title, Bhupathi's 11th Grand Slam doubles title championship, seven of them mixed.

The Indian pair beat Nathalie Dechy of France and Andy Ram of Israel 6-3, 6-1 at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Bhupathi and Mark Knowles of the Bahamas lost the men's doubles final on Saturday to American twins Bob and Mike Bryan.

"My coach, trainer and obviously Sania were trying to keep me as positive as possible," said Bhupathi.

"But going home without a title after making two finals just crossed my mind a few too many times today in the match. It didn't happen, so I'm happy at that."

Mirza, who wasn't bothered by a recent wrist problem during the tournament, also felt pretty good.

"It's always a dream to win a Grand Slam, that's what we all play for I think when we're younger," she said. "It makes it more special because it's with someone that I've known for so long and so well."

The 34-year-old Bhupathi won a previous mixed title at the Australian Open in 2006 with Martina Hingis.

Bhupathi and 22-year-old Mirza broke Dechy's serve in the opening set, then broke their opponents twice in the second. Bhupathi was dominant at the net throughout the match.

They were the first Indian pair to win a Grand Slam mixed doubles title, and, combined with Yuki Bhambri's junior boys' singles win, made it a good tournament for India.

Mirza hoped it might have a positive impact in India.

"Let's hope a lot," she said. "I don't remember the last time when we had so many - I mean, he (Bhupathi) played the finals, we won today, Yuki won. It's been a great two weeks.

"Let's hope a lot more people play, and tennis grows. It's been growing. (This) might take it to another level."

Bhupathi agreed.

"I know for a fact the country's excited now," he said. "It's her first Slam. She's been in the news for the last four years. I think a lot of good players in the past have won a Slam in either doubles or mixed and then gone on to do better things. Even Venus and Serena (Williams), they won their first slams in mixed and were confident to move up in singles."


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