A big crew of camerapersons and journalists crowded the “most important court” (from India’s view-point), the Khalifa Tennis Centre. Groggy and sleepy-eyed, they stood at the gate of the ‘action-packed’ Court No. 3, their cameras at the ready to capture two of the most famous faces in India — Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.
Whatever one saw during the farcical ‘trial’ to pick India’s most potent doubles combination here reinforced the fact that this relationship, which brought the country innumerable cherishable moments, grand victories and tears of joy, was snapping — for good.
The two did finally decide to pair up for what seems to be their last shot at glory in the individual doubles competition, but after that it’s probably the end of the relationship.
There were many moments that foretold the future — like when Paes decided to sit with his “opponent” for the day Rohan Bopanna, after every couple of games or the cold, measured walk that Bhupathi took past his captain.
Later in the day, Paes came out of the draw ceremony to dispel doubts about his pairing with Bhupathi. “Yesterday I had a long discussion with the AITA and the selection committee and I let them know my opinion. However, it would not be professional to disclose it Mahesh and I are playing together, and Mustafa Ghouse and Rohan Bopanna would be the other pair.
“I would put my best foot forward, regardless of whom I am paired with… We have to put things (the past) behind because it is going to be tough,” he said.
“Mahesh and I are very experienced but form and fitness are also important, that’s what I’ve been stressing,” he added.
On the developments in the last few days, he only said, “It was unfortunate the way things happened and I as the captain (of the team) have to make an opinion… right now we have to forget all that and concentrate on the task at hand.”
Encouraging words, but the writing is clearly on the wall: The pair will bid a final goodbye, after their final hurrah in Doha.