Former doubles world number one Mahesh Bhupathi won’t play for India any more. Not even in the Asian Games in Doha this December.
“I had a lunch meeting with Anil Khanna (the All India Tennis Association general secretary) today and I told him I was stepping back,” the 32-year-old Bhupathi told HT on Monday soon after partnering Mario Ancic to win the ATP Kingfisher Open doubles title.
Asked whether he would go ahead with December’s Doha Asian Games, for which he has been named in the team, the winner said, “No. Today onwards I cease to be part of Indian teams.”
Bhupathi told reporters that various factors forced him to take this decision. One was the legitimate inability of Leander Paes to partner him and thus, prepare for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, one of Bhupathi’s last remaining ambitions. Two, he didn’t see a point in travelling to every minor league Davis Cup encounter for just the doubles fixture. Another reason was he wants more youngsters and singles players to make up the Indian Davis Cup team. Equally, he wants to win the Australian Open title, the only Grand Slam men’s doubles title missing from his trophy cabinet.
“If I play the Asian Games, my preparation for the Australian Open will get affected,” Bhupathi said. He said he did not have a partner as yet for the Melbourne major but would find one during the indoor season.
Bhupathi’s decision also means it’s the end of the Paes-Bhupathi chapter, one of the glorious ones in Indian sport. On Sunday the Bangalore star told a Kolkata paper, “I had the motivation to play for India till the Beijing Olympics. But to have a realistic chance of winning a medal, Leander and I have to play together regularly, otherwise there’s not much chance of beating the Bryan brothers and other good pairs.”