Paes leads India to men's, mixed doubles titles

Updated: December 13, 2006, 2:13 PM ET
Reuters

DOHA, Qatar -- Leander Paes led India to the Asian Games men's and mixed doubles titles on Wednesday, making up for the disappointment of Sania Mirza's loss to Zheng Jie of China in the women's singles.

The 23-year-old Zheng silenced hundreds of raucous Indian fans by defeating 20-year-old Mirza 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 in a clash lasting almost two hours.

"It was tough," a beaming Zheng told reporters. "Everyone was supporting Sania, so I had to keep going in the final set."

Mirza had the support of hundreds of Indian expatriates who have flocked to watch their nation's young sporting icon play each day.

Zheng, who needed courtside attention in the second set because of a thigh strain, forced a series of errors from Mirza in the third to win comfortably.

"I felt I was playing football," Zheng said, referring to the crowd. "This is unforgettable, after watching so many of my teammates win gold medals and to hear the national anthem."

Paes and his feuding partner Mahesh Bhupathi saved seven match points in the second set to overcome 24-year-old Thai twins Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 in a rain-hit final that lasted close to three hours.

Paes said he was relieved to get by the Thai twins.

"It was a hell of a week," he told reporters. "They threw everything at us -- including the kitchen sink.

"We got through by the skin of our teeth," he added.

Multiple Grand Slam winners Paes and Bhupathi almost did not team up after a spat following their loss to unfancied Taiwan in the first round of the team event.

Mirza and Paes, 33, then teamed up to claim the mixed doubles title, defeating Japan's Satoshi Iwabuchi and Akiko Morigami 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.

Mirza was happy her exhausting schedule ended with a gold medal.

"I'm delighted to finally get a gold," Mirza told reporters. "It has been 10 long days and I'm exhausted."

Mirza and Paes were on court for around five hours on Wednesday.

"We both ended up playing two matches," said Paes. "But this is the stuff I'm prepared to do for the country.

"The crowd were fantastic. I'm ready for more," he said.