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Playing Chennai, looking London for Rohan-Hesh

Top-seeded Indian duo faces Xavier Malisse-Ken Skupski in opener. Deepti Patwardhan reports. Results

sports Updated: Jan 04, 2012 01:10 IST
Deepti Patwardhan
Deepti Patwardhan
Hindustan Times
Deepti Patwardhan,Chennai,Mahesh Bhupathi

As far as the team of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna goes, the countdown to the London Olympic Games begins on Wednesday at the Chennai Open.

Bhupathi, who hopes that he and Bopanna claim the top spot when the All India Tennis Association selection committee sits down to choose the Olympics doubles team, is going an extra mile to accommodate his new partner.

The 37-year-old confirmed on Tuesday that he will be switching sides and playing on the deuce (right-hand side) of the court this season. “We made the decision about a month ago that I will be playing on the deuce court. That’s what I’ve been practicing for the past couple of weeks,” he said on the sidelines of the Chennai Open.

Though his experience of 16 years on the tour may make the transformation easier for Bhupathi, it remains to be seen how his forehand stands the test of today’s power tennis. His backhand returns from the ad court have long been counted as one of his biggest strengths.

“We’ll see how the team gels,” said Bhupathi. “Olympics is still seven months away. But, yeah, if it were up to me, we’d be playing in London together. For that, we need to get the results.”

Although the duo weren’t able to practice a lot in the off-season — with Bopanna attending his former partner Aisam Qureshi’s wedding in Lahore — Bhupathi put in the yards with his trainer, Shyamal Vallabhjee, to fit into the new team dynamic.

Bhupathi-Bopanna, the top seeds in Chennai, will take on Xavier Malisse and Ken Skupski in the first round.

Goffin stuns Malisse
The fan in David Goffin wouldn’t have liked what he saw, but the player in him was clinical in ending fellow Belgian Malisse’s singles campaign in the first round in Chennai on Tuesday.

With former champion Malisse down with illness and clearly struggling to just stand on the court, wildcard Goffin scored a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.

“Growing up, I watched him on TV, and was a fan of Malisse. But he plays mostly in Florida so I have never played a match or practiced with him,” said the 21-year-old, ranked 148 places below his opponent.

First Published: Jan 04, 2012 00:10 IST