Tennis viewing, like most things, is a matter of habit. On Wednesday morning, the second day of the off-season training camp in Mumbai, Mahesh Bhupathi took guard on the baseline, honing his returning skills. He won some, lost some, the forehand return down the line often striking the net cord.
Something was off, and it wasn’t Bhupathi’s timing. After spending most of his professional life on the left side of the court, known as the ad court in tennis jargon, Bhupathi was venturing out to the other side.
He will be playing with fellow Indian Rohan Bopanna in the coming season, both of whom prefer playing on the ad court. Bhupathi’s trainer, Shyamal Vallabhjee, said the 37-year-old is contemplating switching to the deuce (right) side to accommodate his younger partner.
“This time we will be doing a lot of on-court work,” said Vallabhjee, who trains the Indian trio of Bhupathi, Bopanna and Sania Mirza on the Tour.
“It’s a different dynamic; Mahesh will probably be playing on the different side of the court with Rohan Bopanna. The understanding of the game, the angles, the way he moves, everything changes. A lot of my focus is going to be on getting him to understand the court from a different side, understand the movement patterns, train his muscles for work. And from a visualisation and mental training point of view, there's no better place than the court to absorb all that information.”
Bopanna, who this week is attending his former partner Aisam Qureshi's wedding in Lahore, is likely to join the camp on December 22.
The duo has played a few times, the most recent being during India’s Davis Cup World Group play-off tie against Japan in September, and have been able to work with their differences, or in their case the similarities. Though Bhupathi said they were 100% decided on how the team shapes up, he is taking the first few steps to making the big adjustment from left to right.