A shout in Chennai, a whistle there. The crowd was understandably brimming with excitement, banishing their tennis etiquette for a day. After nine long years, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were playing together in Chennai; an Indian had failed to win the singles or doubles title since.
And the most intriguing story of Indian tennis in the last decade and more, gave them the perfect finish, beating Robin Haase and David Martin 6-2, 6-7 (3), 10-7. They clinched victory after an hour and 45 minutes of drama to take the Chennai Open doubles crown.
It was their first title-win together since the 2004 Toronto Masters. The last three matches that Paes and Bhupathi played have followed a similar pattern: the Indians winning the first set convincingly; opponents making tactical adjustments to break their dominance at the net, only to be usurped by the final wave of emotion by the spectators as well as the two doubles veterans themselves. Paes and Bhupathi share a great chemistry not only with each other, but also with the court and the city.
"I really can't describe the feeling," said Bhupathi. "We have won here five times, played Davis Cup here too. Thanks to the fans." Paes concurred, "It's great to win here with Mahesh. One thing's for sure, when we play for India and play together, it's great fun."
Haase-Martin had taken out Somdev Devvarman-Sanam Singh in the first round and Rohan Bopanna-Aisam Qureshi in the second. They looked like creating another Indian upset as they went 4-1 up in the match tie-break.
The Indians fought back. Fired up by the occasion, they literally threw themselves at everything, running desperately to retrieve each lob, their hearts willing them to places their legs struggled to go. Bhupathi, usually the subdued of the two on court, played some blinding shots towards the end, setting up match-point with a great return and then killing off the challenge with a difficult overhead.
The emotion was riding high as both the players threw racquets in the air and fell into each other's arms. For years they had pushed the other to greater heights, even when they no longer played together. They remain in the league of the few Indian sportspersons who have delivered on the country's expectations.
It seems almost imperative for tennis players to possess a selfish streak. Be it the insulated lifestyle, the loneliness of the battle or the hard-edged week on week competition, looking inwards becomes a compulsion. While the quality is covert in many, Stanislas Wawrinka's ambition seems to have overrun his life.
The Swiss started on the Satellite circuit when he was 14, dropped out of school at 15 to play in more events and recently walked out on his wife and daughter last year to refocus on his game. He arrived in Chennai four days before the tournament started, putting in two practice sessions per day, sweating buckets to get fit and sharp for the week ahead. All that focus and effort paid off, at least for the week, as Wawrinka lasted a physical match against 2007 champion Xavier Malisse to claim the title 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.