My focus is on mixed-doubles
I would be lying if I say I did not recall the moments of 1999, first when we stepped out and then when we walked back as the men's doubles champions at The Championships. But July 4, 2003 was different. By the time Rikl and I reached the court, and started warming up, all my thoughts were on the semi-finals.
There was no time to think about anything other than the match ahead since playing at less than par against Mahesh and Max Mirnyi means you will lose. I think Rikl and I stepped out with a lot of confidence. We knew we were the underdogs and had to play at our best against a pair, which plays with such pace that there was no scope for any loose play.
Having won the first set via tie-breaker, it was good at the change of ends. But from then on, the match got more intense. I honestly think in a match like this, it is just a few shots which decide the result. When you stand against big servers like Mahesh and Max, the best way out is to return well and use the opponent's pace.
Rikl and I did get a few close looks at Mahesh's serve. I think if we had returned better, especially on those break points, the result could have gone the other way. In Paris, Mahesh and Max were on top, but when we got our chance, we grabbed it. Friday was a best of five set match, so there are a lot of mental games played. But once we lost the second set and then failed to cash in on the set point in the third, we knew it was an uphill battle. When you go to the chair and start thinking about being two sets down, it's not a great feeling. Rikl and I knew it would have been better if we were leading by two sets to one.
I don't look too much into this loss. Rikl and I have gelled well, we were the underdogs and it was good to come so far. I think with Rikl and I now getting along so well, the results are beginning to show. Matches like the one on Friday are good for viewers, and it was nice to see so many fans out there enjoying the tennis we played.
Some of my friends were asking me how disappointing it was to lose. Believe me, I hardly had any time to think about it, as I had to prepare for my mixed doubles with Martina Navratilova. Being with Martina is such an education, we were immersed in our quarterfinal against Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond.
Being a professional, there's not much time to think of wins and losses. One just has to go out and be ready for the next. And now, to be in the mixed doubles semis is a rare honour with Martina as partner. I had said two days back that don't be surprised if we win a few more Slams.
Dear readers, that's my frame of mind now. And thanks for all the feedback you have been giving me. It sure keeps me going. (PMG)