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Braced for friendly fire

sports Updated: Jun 28, 2009 22:57 IST
Deepti Patwardhan
Deepti Patwardhan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

It’s been a dream Wimbledon so far for Prakash Amritraj. And the 25-year-old is in no mood to let it end — even when he clashes against his “good friend” Mahesh Bhupathi on Monday.

Amritraj and Pakistani partner Aisam Qureshi, who entered the tournament as rank outsiders, have clinched two thrilling five-setters so far and will meet third seeds Bhupathi and Mark Knowles (Bahamas) for a place in the quarter-finals.

“We are excited going into the match,” Amritraj told HT from London on Sunday. “The pressure is on them. We have come through some tough matches. It definitely helps when you have come back from adverse situations. And if we show the same fire we can burn them.”

Bhupathi is the most successful Indian at Grand Slams, having won 11 majors in the team event. But Amritraj is not letting that deter him.

‘No intimidation’

“Mahesh and I have been good friends, we hang out a lot. He’s definitely an established name but for me it’s like playing another buddy, as opposed to playing someone like the Bryans (Mike and Bob). There’s no intimidation factor.

“Aisam and I haven’t been at these events a lot. So we are definitely excited and are playing much better than what out rankings suggest.”

Qureshi, ranked 85 in doubles, had his best showing at majors when he and Israel’s Amir Hadad reached the third round at the 2002 Wimbledon while Amritraj is playing his first Wimbledon main draw.

For almost a decade, the Indian rivalry at the tennis Slams has been restricted to estranged partners Bhupathi and Leander Paes. But come Monday, he would have already played two of the younger brigade. Bhupathi-Knowles recovered to beat Somdev Devvarman and Kevin Anderson in the first round.

‘Tough youngsters’

“Its tough playing these younger players,” Bhupathi said. “Prakash and I both will try to win the match so we have to forget that we are friend off the court.

“Its good to see Somdev and Prakash do well here. Obviously they have a long way to go; it’s their first Slam and a good stepping stone.”

Bhupathi will also renew his rivalry with Paes when the two face-off in the mixed doubles, also scheduled for Monday.

Bhupathi has teamed up with Indian Sania Mirza while Paes is playing with Zimbabwe’s Cara Black.