Friday saw the best of Indian tennis, the worst of Indian tennis. Inspiring five-set wins by Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj gave India a 2-0 lead in the Davis Cup tie against Japan.
Earlier, however, www.espnstar.com quoted captain Leander Paes saying, “Opting to play doubles with Mahesh (Bhupathi) was probably the worst decision of my playing career.” The statement, later denied by Paes, reopened the can of controversies that is the Paes-Bhupathi relationship.
But this was during the day. By evening, Rohan and Prakash had given India an unexpected 2-0 lead over the stronger, younger Japanese team. Finally, Indian tennis has found new heroes, someone else to talk about than the constantly bickering Paes and Bhupathi.
Paes told espnstar.com: “When I was at the top of my singles career, I sacrificed my rankings to play Satellites and Future tournaments with him so that he could be at par with me which would help us get entry into ATP tournaments. Even though everyone advised me not to pick up a rookie player like Mahesh, my instincts told me to take him along.
"Now, when I look back, I regret the fact that I sacrificed my singles career for him. I had won the Pilot Pen International tournament beating the top players of the world, including Pete Sampras (though he did beat Sampras in the event, he did not win the tournament) and reached a world ranking of 73 in 1998. "Going by my performance then, I should have focused on singles. Opting to play doubles with Mahesh was probably the worst decision of my playing career."
After the matches on Friday, Paes said his comments were not taken in the right context.
"It would be utterly silly of me to make a comment like that," he said. "The context of the answer was that I regret having slowed down my singles career. "Let me make this clear, I have cherished every single time that I've played with Mahesh. Having been No1 in the world and having won so many Grand Slams with him is fantastic."
Mobile ESPN said they were standing by the interview and said it had been digitally recorded. There was no question of anything being manufactured.