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Two giants of Indian tennis may never look each other in the eye again.
The two giants of Indian tennis: Paes-Bhupathi appeared in six ATP World Tour doubles finales, won 24 straight Davis Cup matches from 1997-2010 (the longest streak ever) and won three men’s doubles Grand Slam titles. As a pair, Bhupathi and Paes instilled fear in the minds of the opponents. But what are the issues amongst this former world number 1 team that now they don’t want to play together even for national pride in Olympics?
The relationship between India’s best doubles pair gradually fell to depths after being on high during 90s.Suddenly after 2006 Asian games, they split. The exact reason for the rift has never been known. Over the years, it has been rumored that the split is due to various factors like ego clashes, each player garnering more attention than the other. According to a source,” Leander was getting more money, fame and sponsorship, while Bhupathi, his partner, was not getting so much of it. It became easier for people to influence Bhupathi than to come out of Leander’s shadow”.
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi used to pump fists and bump chests, but somehow there was always a whiff of forced mechanics to the team they made. Rarely were there any smiles attached. They were a seriously good doubles pairing who could have won a lot more than they did.
Getting Back Together?
But if you watched them, you sensed they didn’t really like playing with each other. Didn’t like each other, actually. Sure enough, their partnership didn’t last, and the tension between them has been public knowledge for years.
“We have got so spoilt in the fact that Mahesh and I won so many matches — Davis Cup ties and created some crazy record… 24 matches on the trot that we won. I am using the word gently, but we were a bit spoilt with that combination,” Paes said.
“That combination was phenomenal for what it was. We played together for eight years to reach where we are. But now let us put that aside.”
Asked about Paes’ comments that he can pair up with anybody, Bhupathi said, “I would be happy to do that but we have returned empty handed in the four attempts from 2004 to 2008.” “If AITA feels that putting him (Paes) and one of us will have a chance for a medal, then they don’t know anything about tennis. It’s not about practice alone. We want to perform and we need the comfort between us, the chemistry and camaraderie,” he said.
A Paes-Bhupathi partnering doesn’t seem to be a option with both the players very vocal about their unwillingness to play with each other. As the legends of John McEnroe-Peter Fleming, Stefan Edberg-Anders Jarryd have taught, doubles demand unreserved faith and camaraderie. It’s only just that the once-duopoly of Indian tennis do not find themselves playing in the same patch of soil anymore.
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