Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati: Analysing the Davis Cup's most successful pairs
The Indian doubles pairing of Mahesh Bhupati and Leander Paes is considered one of the greatest doubles pairing in the world, although they have since gone their separate ways after a falling out.
India has had significant success at the Davis Cup, finishing as the runners-up on three occasions in 1966, 1974 and 1987 respectively. The team were favourites to win in 1974, with the strong pairing of Vijay Amritraj and Anand Amritraj, but they finished second after refusing to participate due to widespread apartheid in South Africa.
When we talk about the most successful pairing at the Davis Cup, the Bhupathi-Paes team are the first who come to mind. They have won 25 of their 27 doubles ties, and have a 24 match continuous streak out of their 25 wins.
The pair were defeated only by Jonas Bjorkman and Nicklas Kulti of Sweden during the 1996 World Group quarterfinal, and Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis of Netherlands before that in the 1996 World Group first round, before then went on a 24 match unbeaten streak.
The only doubles pair that is closest to the record is that of John McEnroe and Peter Fleming, who have an unbeaten streak of 14 – a staggering 10 fewer than the Paes/Bhupathi record. There is no current doubles team who are still active who are close to beating the record and it looks like their record will stand for a long time. If the two are to play anymore doubles matches together they can continue their streak as it is still an active one.
Paes, who has returned to India after clinching his second grand slam of the year with Martini Hingis this week, said he is looking forward to the Davis Cup ties and hoping to give them his best.
He has been an active Davis Cupper for India for the past 25 years, after playing his first tie in 1990.
Due to partner Rohan Bopanna, Paes said he was “really looking forward to being on the court with Rohan again.”
“We played a great tie against Serbia last September," said an excited Paes during an interview after a successful US Open campaign.
The 42 year old is set to face his former doubles partner Radek Stepanek and wants to play a generous and good host to his ‘brother’, "I am playing against one of my brothers, Radek Stepanek. He is not only a great tennis player but also a great ambassador to the game. He is one of my closest buddies. Really looking forward to welcoming him here," he said.
With his US Open victory this week, Paes overtook his former partner Mahesh Bhupati as the most successful mixed doubles champion with nine Grand Slam titles in the category.
Some of Paes/Bhupathi’s best wins during the Davis Cup have come against opponents of significant caliber, such as Goran Ivanisevic and Sasa Hirszon of Croatia, Martin Damm and Petr Korda of the Czech Republic, Tim Hennman and Neil Broad of Great Britain and Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo of Brazil.
"With Berdych it would have been out of our reach but now I think we have a much better chance. Having said they have a guy in top-50 one on top-100, and Stepanek is there,it is going to be tough,” said India’s Davis Cup captain, Anand Amritraj.
"Heat is definitely going to be a big factor, it is going to be 37, 38 in the afternoon. However fit you are, to concentrate for three sets mentally and physically won't be easy," Anand Amritraj said.
Rohan Bopanna, who will be playing alongside Paes, said the pair have to play their best tennis to beat the Czech team. "We don't know who will play (in doubles). I know maybe Radek will be playing but who will play with him. Whether it is Lukas (Rosol) or (Jiri) Vesely or the other guy (Adam Pavlasek). It's an experienced team. They are not only in the World Group for such a long time but have also won it twice. We have to play our best tennis," he said.
India takes on the team from the Czech Republic from September 18 – 20 at New Delhi in their next Davis Cup fixture.
Here’s a look at the top five Doubles streaks at the Davis Cup:
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati
John McEnroe and Peter Fleming
Juan Gisbert and Manuel Orantes
Harshana Godamanna and Rajeev Rajapakse
Guy Forget and Henri Leconte
- *stands for unbeaten streak
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, the old war horses who have an incredible 23-match winning streak in Davis Cup, have made t... #SPORTS— #CWC15 (@DotBall) June 5, 2014