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Stark, Leach part with sweet doubles victory

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Medford native Jonathan Stark and Rick Leach savedtheir best performance for last, winning the Phoenix ATP Tour World DoublesChampionship. They defeated Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(7-3) in Sunday's final.

Stark and Leach had lost five tournament finals this year. Leach, wholost two other finals, won at least one tournament for the 11th consecutiveyear.

I finally got Rick a title and no one is more deserving,Stark said. I didn't want to be his only partner to not win a titlewith him.

Leach also announced after the match that he will not play with Starknext year. Stark will play with South African Byron Black, a former partner,and Leach will play with South African Ellis Ferreira.

We kind of talked and this was decided, said Stark. Ithink we both maybe want to take that back at this point, but that's theway it goes. To finish like this, it actually makes it even more specialto do that.

This was Leach's first appearance in a World Doubles final since he combinedwith Jim Pugh to win the first World Doubles Championship in 1988.

It's like a dream come true that I'm still able to play at thislevel, Leach said. Most definitely this makes up for the sevenlosses in tourney finals I had this year.

Paes and Bhupathi got a break in the third game and held a 3-1 advantage.Leach and Stark then won the next five games to win the set. They were notbroken again in the match.

The way they play, it's aggressive tennis, said Stark. Youfeel a lot of pressure from them around the net and luckily today Rick andI were just sharp and could counteract what they were doing.

Leach and Stark finish the year ranked the No. — doubles team in theworld. They will split the $60,000 prize.

Following the match, Stark hopped a plane to Sweden where he will bea member of the United States' Davis Cup team.

Two hours before Sunday's match, David Cup captain Tom Gullikson calledStark to extend the offer to replace Alex O'Brien on the U.S. doubles team.O'Brien had to pull out due to a stress fracture in his left foot.

The South Medford graduate had to regroup his thoughts before headingon to the court.

You never know what coach Gullikson's going to do, but I took itas a positive, said Stark. I'm obviously excited and it's anhonor to be on the team. It kind of pumped me up for today's match.

Sunday's win avenged a loss to Bhupathi and Paes two months ago in Singaporein their previous meeting.

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