Paes wins, hugs Navratilova

Leander Paes' triumph at the French Open was cause for great celebration, especially for me and others members of the Association of Rabid Fans of Doubles Tennis. We threw a party Saturday night and really had a good time, all three of us.

Paes and his partner, Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic, won the men's doubles title, beating Wesley Moodie of South Africa and Belgium's Dick Norman 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. (Ignore the first set. Paes was preoccupied, exchanging glances with Martina Navratilova.)

Paes now has nine Grand Slam doubles titles (five men's and four mixed), just two behind his former partner Mahesh Bhupathi (four men's, seven mixed). Bhupathi  has won titles with seven different women, including most recently Sania Mirza at the Australian Open. He's truly amazing. It doesn't matter whom you pair him with – Mary Pierce, Martina Hingis, Venus Flytrap — he'll probably win a title.

Paes and Bhupathi won three Grand Slam titles together, the last in 2001, before having some sort of falling out, much to the chagrin of Indian tennis fans. They did get back together for last year's Olympics, somewhat reluctantly, and lost in the quarters to Stanislas Wawrinka and some guy named Roger.

Paes would love nothing more, I'm sure, than to finish his career with more Grand Slam titles than Bhupathi. And with his former partner Navratilova cheering him on, anything is possible.

"Martina has been a soulmate for many years. We've been through a lot in life, especially me in the last eight years. She's been along with me, supporting me, guiding me at times," said Paes.

"When I was diagnosed with cancer and I couldn't play, she basically stayed away from the game and didn't play mixed doubles until I came back."

"Whenever I look at a person like Navratilova, she gives me a lot of inspiration. It was strange that just at the end of the second set when we were getting a bit nervous and a bit edgy, she came out there and was just making eye contact.

"Lukas served three doubles faults early in the third set. I told him at one point, Martina is out there. Come on. Have a look at her. She's inspiring us." [Link]

Here's a pic of Paes hugging Navratilova after his victory, with a familiar face applauding.

Paes

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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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