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Last-minute pairing for Zimonjic pays off

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Elena Bovina and Nenad Zimonjic,
teaming for the first time, defeated defending champions Martina
Navratilova and Leander Paes on Sunday to win the Australian Open
mixed doubles title.

Russian right-hander Bovina and Zimonjic, from
Serbia-Montenegro, ended Navratilova's hopes of a 10th Grand Slam
mixed doubles title with a 6-1, 7-6 (3) center-court victory in 1
hour, 9 minutes.

Navratilova, seeded fourth with Paes, has said she will retire
from tournament play at the end of the year.

Bovina, a mixed doubles finalist at the French Open in 2002, was
thrilled with their breakthrough Grand Slam triumph.

"When I was a junior, my coach made us bury all the trophies for
second and third place," the 20-year-old Bovina said. "I really
wanted to keep this one today, so I really tried.

"It's just great to get a trophy. Doesn't matter if it's
singles, doubles, mixed doubles. It's first place, it's fantastic
for me."

She said it was the first time she and Zimonjic had teamed
together, and "I think we did pretty good."

Zimonjic, 27, said he had left a note with WTA Tour officials
before the tournament seeking a partner, and that Bovina had
responded.

"I'd like to thank you guys for finding a great partner for
me," he said.

Zimonjic, ranked No. 33 in doubles and with seven titles to his
credit, paid tribute to Navratilova, before adding, "You've had
enough wins."

Zimonjic had also teamed with Paes to win the Delray Beach
doubles title last year.

Navratilova has won 167 singles titles and 173 in doubles. She
has a total of 58 Grand Slam championships.

Paes was continuing his comeback from a five-month layoff due to
a nonmalignant brain lesion.

He was treated for the last four months of the year in Orlando,
Fla., after tests in August revealed that he had
neurocysticercosis, a parasitic infection that causes a brain
abscess.

Navratilova had claimed a record-tying 20th Wimbledon title last
year by winning the mixed doubles with Paes, as well as their
Australian title last year.

"It's a real treat to play with you," Paes said to
Navratilova. "We came up a bit short today, but playing with you
has been a joy and a blessing."

Navratilova was satisfied with the effort she and Paes gave.

"We almost pulled it off," Navratilova said of almost taking
the second set. "You want to go down swinging and fighting and we
did that. It was nice we mounted a short comeback but it was a
shame we couldn't sustain it.

"I'm not saying goodbye to playing tennis, I'm just saying
goodbye to hitting the ball here. I've still got a whole year to
go."