Cheered on by a crowd that tournament director Paul Flory described as, "the best doubles crowd in the history of the tournament," Americans James Blake and Todd Martin cruised to a 7-5, 6-3 victory over the No. 3 seeded team, Max Miryni of Belarus and Mahesh Bhupathi of India.
Remarkably, the pair marched through the field as unseeded wild cards, and became the first All-American team to capture Cincinnati's doubles title since Doug Flach and Ken Seguso in 1991. Blake also claimed his first ATP title, and made history by becoming the first African American champion ever in Cincinnati's long history. (The only other player to come close was Arthur Ashe, but he lost in the 1969 doubles final in 1969.)
"I feel a special bond with Cincinnati fans," said Blake, who last year reached the third round here in singles. "I feel I made a breakthrough here last year. Hopefully, throughout my career I'll have a few more breakthroughs here."
En route to the championship, the Americans defeated four seeded teams. During the trophy presentation, where Blake and Martin each received their first ever Tennis Masters Series Shields, Bhupathi graciously told that crowd, "I'm just glad they don't play doubles on a regular basis, or else we would be in big trouble."
Coming into the tournament Martin and Blake had paired together a few other times, but had a mediocre 3-3 record for the year. They won their first match here in doubles last year, but had to pull out of the second round after Martin got injured in his singles match. This year was a different story.
"He made it up to me this week," said a smiling Blake.
During their press conference after their win, the chemistry between Blake and Martin was palpable, as the 32-year-old American and his 22-year-old partner joked about their serendipitous pairing. "You never know what's going to happen with a doubles partner until you take a couple of swings together," said Martin, "And we matched up better than I was expecting."
Expect to see Blake and Martin join forces in the future, perhaps even in the semifinal Davis Cup tie against France in September.