What Leander Paes and I achieved can’t be replicated: Mahesh Bhupathi
Mahesh Bhupathi believes that what he and Leander Paes achieved as a team between 1996 to 2002 will be not be replicated again.tennis Updated: May 09, 2017 23:47 IST
Kolkata Given that the occasion was a book launch --- ‘A History of Indian Sport through 100 Artefacts’ by Boria Majumdar --- Mahesh Bhupathi was asked whether he thought there should be a book on his storied relationship with Leander Paes.
The other half of Indian tennis’ most famous duo paused and then deadpanned: “Shouldn’t there be a movie?”
Before the laughter in the audience died down, Bhupathi said: “Let’s put controversies aside. I surely did not see this coming. I don’t think what we achieved as a team between 1996 to 2002 will be replicated. Two kids from outside the top 100 going on to be the world No 1. That sure was very special,” said Bhupathi on Tuesday.
That wasn’t all. “Things didn’t work out for us thereafter but you can’t fault us for not trying. We kept trying, getting together because we knew it was a special relationship, not just for us but for the country.”
It was a relationship that fetched 23 successive Davis Cup victories and 25 ATP titles including three Grand Slam titles in 1999.
Having visited the sports museum, created by Majumdar and city-based industrialist Harsh Neotia --- earlier in the day, Bhupathi also said he was disappointed that it didn’t have him and Paes framed together for posterity.
Paes and Bhupathi have had a relationship that was once friendly but now seemingly irredeemably fractious. The latest in a long line of sorry episodes was about how Paes felt he was called for the Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan and Rohan Bopanna was preferred over him.
It included a series of messages between them being made public and overshadowed India’s 4-1 win which gave them another shot at a World Group slot.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) told both to behave but even after the tie ended, they kept trading charges.
Now India’s Davis Cup captain, Bhupathi was mum on whether Paes would play India’s next tie, against Canada away from September 15-17 this year.
“We will see,” said Bhupathi. “We have a lot of players ranked between 200-300 now. Indian tennis is at its best depth today. So, hopefully a couple of those players will make the next transition and into the top 100 which is what makes the difference for us.”
‘Happy Sharapova is back’
Bhupathi said as a fan and an organiser of tennis events, he is happy that Maria Sharapova is back after serving a 15-month dope ban.
“You need to keep the commercial separate from the emotional. With Serena (Williams) out for I don’t know how long, women’s tennis needs someone like Sharapova now. She did well in her first tournament, making the semifinals of the Stuttgart Grand Prix on a wildcard (Sharapova lost 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 to France’s Kristina Mladenovic) and lost on Monday (to bête noire Eugenie Bouchard 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in Madrid). The bottomline is she is back and it is good for tennis,” said Bhupathi.