Leander Paes Wins 14th Grand Slam Championship
Kastles Captain and Radek Stepanek Roll Past Peya and Soares
Following his critically-acclaimed performance against Bob and Mike Bryan in the semifinals, Kastles captain Leander Paes provided fans with an encore Sunday, capturing his 14th Grand Slam championship.
Paes and Radek Stepanek, who lost in the 2012 US Open men's doubles final, rolled past No. 2 seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares 6-1, 6-3 to win this year's title.
It's been a record-setting summer for the 40-year-old Paes.
In July, he helped the Kastles extend their winning streak to 34 matches, setting a new major U.S. pro sports mark.
With his latest victory, Paes becomes the oldest player in the Open Era (1968-present) to win a Grand Slam men's doubles title. At the US Open specifically, Paes is the oldest men's doubles champion since 41-year-old Norman Brookes in 1919.
"Age is just a number for us," Paes told media alongside the 34-year-old Stepanek. "We chat with you guys and smile, because you guys tease us about it. But for us, we really take it very seriously to go out and get better every day and to push each other."
New York City was a fitting site for Paes' history-making win. The Indian has reached 11 of his 30 Grand Slam finals at the US Open -- the most of any major.
Peya and Soares, meanwhile, entered Sunday's match with two combined appearances in Grand Slam finals. Inexperience aside, they defeated Paes and Stepanek 6-3, 7-6(5) in their lone previous meeting to win the Tokyo title last October.
But if Peya and Soares had any confidence from that victory, they didn't show it on Sunday.
The Austrian/Brazilian pair struggled with nerves and serves throughout, double-faulting seven times. Paes and Stepanek took a 2-0 lead by breaking Soares at love, then made it 4-0 with a love break of Peya.
Paes served the first set out after only 24 minutes before he and Stepanek again broke Peya at love to take the first game of the second set.
As for his own serve, Paes never faced a break point and helped Stepanek save the only two that he encountered. Leading 6-1, 5-3, Paes converted his team's first championship point by poaching for a backhand volley that he placed directly between Peya and Soares for a winner.
That shot allowed Paes and Stepanek to come full circle after a scary start to the 2013 season.
While Stepanek labored with a neck injury, he and Paes lost in the first round of the Australian Open as the defending champions. The Czech underwent spinal surgery four days later and was unable to play with Paes at the French Open for the second straight year.
But a semifinal showing at Wimbledon set the stage for a title run at the US Open, which has Paes and Stepanek now eyeing the ATP World Tour Finals in November.
"There is one thing we would like to achieve, and that's winning the World Championships in the end of the year, because that's the trophy which is missing in Leander's showcase," said Stepanek. "That's what I'm very focused on. That's what I would like to deliver to his showcase."
Besides his quest for a title at the ATP World Tour Finals, Paes remains one of the most motivated competitors on tour.
In 2014, he hopes to complete the career Grand Slam in mixed doubles at the French Open. In 2016, Paes plans on participating in his seventh Olympics. And if he's really ambitious, he can play through the 2023 French Open and try catching former partner Martina Navratilova, who won her last major title 39 days shy of her 50th birthday.
For now, Paes' showcase features eight men's doubles and six mixed doubles winner's trophies from the Grand Slams. He has reached at least one major final each season since 2003, and all 30 of his major finals have come in the last 15 years.
In other US Open action, No. 5 seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka defeated Washington's Venus Williams and Kastles original Serena Williams 6-4, 6-2 in the women's doubles semifinals.
Serena went on to edge 2010 Kastle Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-7(6), 6-1 on Sunday for her fifth US Open women's singles title.
In the 70-minute second set, Serena led by two breaks and served for the match twice before Azarenka forced and won a tiebreaker. The World No. 1, however, proved too strong in the deciding set.
The "Battle of the Kastles" between Serena and Azarenka was a rematch of the 2012 US Open final, which Serena also won in a thriller 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
With the latest success of Serena, Azarenka and Paes, past and present Kastles are closing in on 100 Grand Slam titles and 150 finals. Check out the Washington Kastles Grand Slam Honor Roll for all the details.