There were fireworks aplenty but, thankfully, they all came off racquets alone.
Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna put in over two hours of tennis together on the grass courts of Chandigarh Club on Wednesday and things were decidedly amicable between them. After practice when the verbal volleys were finally unleashed, nice things were heard.
“I have great respect for Leander and his achievements. He is one of the greatest tennis players from India. I never refused to partner him for the Olympics. All I said was that I was more comfortable with another’s style of play. It was only about compatibility on court and it isn’t personal,” said Rohan Bopanna as he walked off the court dripping on account of the humidity.
Asked about how the two were gelling on court Bopanna added: “We are professionals and now that its decided we are playing together, we will figure things out.” As to just how it was possible for top players to overcome obvious rancor in such a short time span, Rohan said: “We go through so many partners on the tour and deal with so many people that we seem to be able to forget the rest when we step on court.”
Paes and Bopanna took on Saketh Myneni and Vishnu Vardhan. In the warm up Paes was seen explaining his new racquet to Bopanna (a custom-made staff by Yonex) and there wasn’t any apparent hostility. But at the same time there wasn’t also the usual bonhomie that one sees in Davis cup squads. One could sense that the juniors were on tenterhooks tiptoeing around the bigger stars. There was a palpable release in the tension when Paes and Bopanna got on with their business.
“When you play for a billion people, you really can’t afford to be held back by what may have been said in the past. No matter what differences exist, I have always seen players put aside personal ego for the country. That’s been our Davis Cup tradition and that’s the way it should stay,” Paes explained.
Bopanna, in his own understated style, echoed Paes’ sentiment. “Playing for my country, my people is the greatest ever thing for me. In fact when I started playing my father always spoke about Davis Cup first and then anything else.”
As of now, the two are not feeding off each other’s energy and aren’t really combining with the slickness that solid doubles players exhibit. “First day, right? Wait for it to come. Let us practice a bit more and then judge,” said Paes.
Meanwhile peace seems to be prevailing in the team and it appears that all is well for the moment. The funny bit is that even though it’s the singles players who will win or lose this tie for us, doubles only fetches one point as against four singles matches, the centre of all attention at Chandigarh Club have been two veteran doubles players.