Leander Paes exits his final Australian Open

The first stop on Leander Paes’ farewell tour came to an end after a straight-sets defeat to Jamie Murray and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

By Sandeep Banerjee ·

Indian legend Leander Paes and Latvian partner Jelena Ostapenko’s Australian Open mixed-doubles challenge came to an end after they lost 6-2, 7-5 to the Anglo-American duo of Jamie Murray and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round of the tournament on Tuesday.

After winning the toss and choosing to serve, Leander Paes and Jelena Ostapenko were in trouble from the get-go, as Paes was in visible discomfort that had him wincing on more than one occasion.

It affected his ability to move about freely on court and as a result, his opening service game was broken, putting the Indo-Latvian duo on the backfoot from the start.

With their opponents struggling, Jamie Murray and Bethanie Mattek-Sands held serve with ease before once again breaking Leander Paes' serve to leave the Indo-Latvian duo further behind at 4-1.

Leander Paes and Jelena Ostapenko’s 2020 Australian Open run came to an end on Tuesday.

With both sides holding serve in the next three games, the first set came to a close with the Anglo-American pair winning 6-2, having made just two unforced errors compared to their opponents’ seven.

A better second set but still a bridge too far for Leander Paes

Leander Paes was able to move about a bit more freely in the second set, holding serve and executing some decisive drive volleys, while Ostapenko was also on point, taking advantage of indecision between Jamie Murray and Bethanie Mattek-Sands more than once.

As a result, they held their opening serve and went on to put up a close fight with the first set victors, even breaking their serve in the eighth game to lead 5-3.

However, it was all downhill after that. Leander Paes and Jelena Ostapenko were broken in both their next service games to fall behind 5-6, before Jamie Murray and Bethanie Mattek-Sands held serve in the final game to win the set and the match.

Standing ovation for Leander Paes

The defeat didn't dampen the enthusiasm of Leander Paes' many fans sitting in the grandstands, as they gave the 1996 Atlanta Games bronze medallist a standing ovation following the match.

Leander Paes had announced last Christmas that 2020 will be his final season before retirement, and he will be playing a select few tournaments, including Tokyo 2020.

“I am looking forward to the 2020 tennis calendar where I will be playing a few select tournaments, travelling with my team and celebrating with all my friends and fans around the world. It is all of you who have inspired me to become me and I want to take this year to say 'thank you' to you,” Paes had written in a Twitter post.

What next for India at the Australian Open?

With Leander Paes out of the running, India’s attention will turn to Rohan Bopanna, who made it to the quarter-final stage of the Australian Open mixed-doubles competition with partner Nadiia Kichenok after winning in the second round on Sunday.

The pair will face off against Crotia's Nikola Mektic and Czechia's Barbora Krejcikova in the quarter-final on Thursday, January 30.