In mixed doubles, practice time is a privilege. Top-seeded Leander Paes and Cara Black spent all of 45 minutes warming up together in their run to the Australian Open final. But it was all they needed.
Paes and Black won the title on Sunday, beating Ekaterina Makarova and Jaroslav Levinsky 7-5, 6-3. Paes and Black also teamed to win the 2008 U.S. Open title.
“That’s what won it for us today, is that our individual play, our instincts are very well-matched together,” said the 36-year-old Paes, a doubles veteran from India. He has 41 doubles titles — including six Grand Slam doubles and five Grand Slam mixed-doubles crowns. He won the 2003 Australian Open with Martina Navratilova.
For Black, from Zimbabwe, the win completed a set of four. In addition to her two Grand Slam victories with Paes, she won the 2004 Wimbledon and 2002 French Open mixed-doubles titles with brother Wayne.
“It’s the one that’s been eluding me,” Black said. Part of the obstacle to practice time was Black’s busy schedule in Melbourne. Black also made it to the women’s doubles final with Liezel Huber, where they lost in straight sets to Venus and Serena Williams.
“It’s a privilege to get practice time with Cara,” Leander joked. “Playing on the court as a match, we do it quite often, but practice is a privilege. We actually enjoy warming up together. We give each other good rhythm.”
For the tournament overall, how much warming up did they do? “Uhm, 45 minutes this morning,” Black said.
That’s a luxury compared to their opponents, who met each other five minutes before their first-round match.
“We finished in the finals, so it’s not bad for the first tournament,” said Levinsky, who saw on the sign-up sheet that Makarova was looking for a partner.
“So I sent her a text message asking if she wanted to play. She said ‘Yes, let’s play.’ That’s why we’re sitting here now,” he said. “It worked out pretty good, I guess.”
He said the pair hopes to play together again. The charismatic Paes, who does most of the talking, said he plans to stick with Black.
“Chivalry still lives in tennis and India and on the tennis tour,” he said. “If she’ll have me, we’ll still be together.”