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    December 26th, 2011adminSports

    Rohan Bopanna (left) and Mahesh Bhupathi at Bombay Gymkhana / DNA

    Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna talk to Mihir Vasavda about their new partnership and Olympic dreams

    Mahesh, at the start of 2011, did you think your reunion with Leander Paes will end so soon?
    At that time, none of us thought that way. We were looking forward to getting positive results and hoping for the best. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. But I feel good at the position I am in right now. Rohan (Bopanna) has been doing very well for the last couple of years. He is on this really amazing upward curve in his career. Doubles is getting competitive and we rely heavily on power. And Rohan brings a lot of power in our team. So, I am happy that we got this opportunity and hopefully, we will make the most of it.

    How do you look at this new partnership?
    Rohan Bopanna: It’s always a big challenge to play with a new partner. But the experience that Mahesh brings with him will mean a lot. He has been around for more than a decade. So it’s going to help me a lot.

    Mahesh Bhupathi: When you start something new, there are always going to be some nerves. Fortunately for me, I have always been able to make my partnerships work and I know Rohan for a long time. I know his strengths, weaknesses. We’ve been training hard for the last few weeks and hope to get things right when the new season starts.

    What’s the key to make a new partnership work?
    MB: The key thing is we are willing to work together. I think that’s the biggest strength. As doubles players, we have proved ourselves individually. As long as we can work together and believe in each other’s abilities, which we do, then it’s half the battle won.

    Rohan, it’s a big step because you have had plenty of success with Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi.
    RB: It was a tough choice for me to make but an extremely important one. The main reason behind my decision was Olympics. I couldn’t have played (in the Olympics) with Aisam. So I had to think of something new. That’s when Mahesh and I decided to pair up and see how things go.

    Was there any particular point last season when you and Leander felt the time was up?
    MB: Not really. I was informed Leander doesn’t want to play with me anymore. That’s when I called Rohan.

    Was the fact that you and Leander haven’t managed an Olympic medal so far taken into consideration when you decided to split again?
    MB: I would like to believe so. I and Leander have represented India in four Olympics and each time we have fallen short. Something wasn’t working out, though I don’t know what. So, logically, we decided to form a new team.

    Rohan, there have been reports that you had an option to partner Leander. Was it comfortable for you to be in this position where you had to choose between Leander and Mahesh?
    RB: I really wish it was the case. But it wasn’t like that. There are a lot of things involved. You have to take a look at rankings and other such things. I think I can learn a lot from Mahesh. Obviously, we have to work on the rankings aspect so that we can be eligible to qualify for the Olympics but there are still around six months in our hands to get it sorted and we are really looking forward for that.

    Top seeds at the Aircell Chennai Open, Paes partnering Tipsarevic…How do you look at the whole thing?
    MB: For us, it’s a new partnership, so seeding really doesn’t matter. We would really like to win four matches but we will take it one match at a time. It’s a preparation for us for the Australian Open where we would like to do well. It’s always special to play in Chennai.

    RB: Lifting the trophy would be the ideal beginning for us. That would bring in a lot of confidence and satisfaction.

    source: http://www.dnaindia.com/ Daily News & Analysis / Home> Sport> Report / by Mihir Vasavda / Place:Mumbai / Agency:DNA / Sunday, December 25th, 2011

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    There was more than one ray of hope on the horizon but Indian tennis in 2003 continued to look upto the old Messiah for deliverence.

    Rohan Bopanna announced his arrival on the big stage with a courageous performance in the Davis Cup play-off; Prakash Amritraj, the son of the legendary Vijay Amritraj, left a blazing trail on his way to the top of Indian rankings; and Sania Mirza with her historic Wimbledon crown marked the changing face of women’s game in the country.

    Yet, the entire nation looked upto one man, the ‘Miracle Man’ of Indian tennis, to bring salvation. Leander Paes at 30 rejuvenated his own sagging career with two grand slam titles with Martina Navratilova but without his magical inspiration India stumbled for the fourth consecutive time at the play off stage of the Davis Cup.

    The brain cyst that laid him down in the middle of the season brought out those fighting qualities in the man who had time and again pulled off miraculous victories for the country in the past, overcoming a series of adversities in his colourful career.

    And the mass outpouring of love for Paes one saw when a billion voices prayed for his recovery was something unheard of in recent history of mankind.

    Paes did eventually come out of the hospital but his absence from the World Group qualifying tie proved to be a major handicap for India who lost 5-0 to the Netherlands.

    Nevertheless, India did unearth a hero in defeat at Zwolle. In one of the longest matches in Cup history since tie-break was introduced, Rohan Bopanna almost pulled the rug from under the feet of Martin Verkerk. Stretching a top-20 player to five sets was in itself an achievement.

    And, ranked in the 400s, had Bopanna pulled it off – he lost the decider 12/10 – it would have been a truly ‘Leanderian’ achievement.

    In a country of few sporting achievements, what Bopanna did that September evening was akin to a 15-year old Sachin Tendulkar taking Abdul Qadir to the cleaners. To be sure, the wiry 23-year old lad from Coorg, Karnataka, was not exactly playing in his maiden Davis Cup tie.

    When he entered the cauldron that was Eisselhallen, Bopanna had two wins under his belt, but those had come in a more friendly environment of grass surface at home. More importantly, he had looked a slaughtered lamb in his defeat against Australia when he made his debut in a similar play-off last season.

    In Zwolle, the Dutch had assembled their best team, and it was on fast hard courts away from home. But in the more than four hours he spent on court that Friday, Bopanna had won many a heart with his fighting performance.

    In the end, it did not matter that he did not win – none expected him to – but the bold manner in which he put his best foot forward and cut down the ego of the home team to size augured well for Indian tennis.

    After Bopanna’s marathon performance, Prakash Amritraj lost in straight sets to Sjeng Schalken and although Bhupathi and Bopanna started promisingly in the doubles rubber, the Indians were actually running for cover over the next two days.

    Amritraj did nothing earth-shattering that day but well before his first match in Indian colours, the 19-year old US-born had truly established himself as the number one Indian player on the circuit.

    “Having a famous surname does not help you win matches, does it,” Amritraj had said smiling after losing in a Challenger event in India in April. Behind that smile was hidden attributes that helped him zoom from the 1000s to top-300 in ATP rankings.

    Attributes handed down to him from his famous father – not the media savvyness but a strong work ethic and dedication to the game. He returned to the same dusty courts two months later for the Satellite circuit when he truly ‘came, saw and conquered’ the competition and the hearts.

    For a player whose bread and butter was serve and volley, Amritraj’s rapid rise was a fantastic achievement in every sense. If anything, it presented a pleasant contrast to the eyes weary of the baseline slugfests.

    And besides blowing away the myth that successful fathers don’t foster successful sons, it also assured the Indian fans that the sport had other talents to look up to besides the ageing Paes and Bhupathi.

    source: http://www.mid-day.com / 2003-12-24


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