This is one split we can do without. We mean the Leander-Hesh spat at the Asian Games in Doha, after winning the men’s doubles gold medal. Mahesh Bhupathi has publicly ruled out teaming up with Paes for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Leander Paes had earlier refused to play with Bhupathi, questioning his doubles partner’s fitness and commitment after the duo’s defeat by Taiwan led to a first- round exit in the men’s team event. The split couldn’t have come at a worse time, not least because it kills an excellent opportunity for the multiple Grand Slam winners to claim an elusive Olympics doubles gold medal.
It is inarguably the success of the Bhupathi-Paes team — even in emotionally challenging times, as now — that has been the high point of Indian tennis for several seasons. It’s difficult to imagine any of the current Indian players stepping into their shoes. In fact, so complete has been their dominance of the doubles scene that the legendary player and former Davis Cup skipper Vijay Amritraj recently bemoaned the ‘dearth of good talent in Indian tennis’.
There’s obviously a crying need for a change in the system for the development of tennis in the country. Tennis academies, for instance, could actively scout for talent and the government should help in subsidising the costs for training promising players. India will be hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and tennis is likely to be a major event. It’d be a shame if the disturbing events in Doha were to spoil India’s chances then.