Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have regaled tennis fans with their fantastic chemistry that delivered three Grand Slam titles and a World No. 1 ranking. Now as they are coming together - albeit in different roles - only good things can be expected for Indian tennis once again.
Former India Davis Cup captain and one of the oldest tennis legends of the country, Naresh Kumar echoed these thoughts and said that Indian tennis is set to gain a lot with Bhupathi as the new non-playing captain and Paes a part of the team that will take on Uzbekistan in the Asia/Oceania Group 1 Davis Cup second round tie scheduled to be held in Bangalore from April 7.
“Two or three years ago all these fights were taking place, we have to get out of that. Let us hope that with Bhupathi’s coming back, there is a reconciliation. Mahabharata is over,” the 88-year-old told the media on the sidelines of the ongoing Rendez-Vous A Roland Garros - BTA - AITA National Series Tennis Tournament 2017 at the Dakshin Kalikata Sansad (DKS) on Thursday.
On being prodded further to give his opinion about whether Bhupathi and Paes have really buried the hatchet, Kumar stopped short and said that it is a very personal thing between the country’s doubles icons. However, he did add that the signs are encouraging.
“I can’t say. That’s a personal thing between them. Whether they are really at peace or not I can’t say. But it’s a very good sign if they are going to come together.”
The once-revered pair, nicknamed as the ‘Indian Express’, notched up a career record of 303–103 together and amassed 23 consecutive victories in Davis Cup – the longest winning streak in the competition. However, ego issues allegedly cropped up and the embittered duo split even after joining forces for the 2004 and the 2008 Olympic Games.
While Bhupathi has moved on to founding the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), the passionate Paes, at the age of 43, still continues to weave his magic hands at the net to add more to his ever-expanding tally of Grand Slams. Just last year, the evergreen Kolkata-born tennis icon completed his Career Slam in mixed doubles alongside Martina Hingis.
On being asked whether he sees the finish line anytime soon for Paes, Naresh Kumar pointed out to the media: “If you watch closely Leander's doubles or mixed doubles matches, he is the one winning the crucial points. You have to have that confidence and the panache to be still doing that.”
‘Secret to Federer’s success is the backhand’
Kumar also spoke about the magnificent comeback of Roger Federer from a six-month injury-induced hiatus. The Swiss won the Australian Open on his return which was his 18th Slam title and that too, by prevailing over his biggest nemesis, Rafael Nadal in a gruelling, five-set final. The former World No. 1’s mastery continued at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells where the 35-year-old became the oldest ever ATP Masters 1000 champion.
En route to the title, Federer once again made his backhand do the talking as he beat Nadal for the second consecutive time this year. Kumar heaped praise on the revamped Federer backhand and believes that is the secret to the maestro’s winning spree.
“The secret is his backhand. And you know how that backhand came? Because most of his opponents were attacking his backhand all the time and with practice his backhand became strong. I think he has balance and balance is the essence of life. Otherwise, it is not easy to win a Grand Slam at the age of 35.”
The Indian legend also opined that the reason for the 12-time Major winner Novak Djokovic's current slump could be more than just burnout and attributed it to personal issues which have been speculated.
The Serbian, who completed a much-coveted Career Slam at the French Open in June last year, has been able to add only two further titles from 10 tournaments.
Local girl in semi-finals of the ongoing tennis meet
Meanwhile, Bengal's Yubrani Banerjee brought delight to local fans by making it to the semi-finals of the girls' singles under-18 category of the Rendez-Vous A Roland Garros - BTA - AITA National Series Tennis Tournament. The third-seeded Banerjee beat Prerna V Vichare of Maharashtra, 6-3, 6-3 to set up a semi-final clash with the seventh seed GS Vasai of Tamil Nadu.
The other semi-final will be between Smriti Singh and Pratibha Prasad Narayan.
In the boys' section, all the top four seeds entered the last-four stage. While top seed Parikshit Somani beat Dipin Wadhwa, 6-1, 6-3, the second-seeded Rishabh Sharda prevailed over Yugal Bansal, 6-3, 6-0.
Third seed Rithvik Choudhary Bollipalli and fourth seed Abhimanyu Vannemreddy joined them in the semis.
Kolkata is hosting the first leg of this three-leg qualifying tournament, the second one of which will be held in Pune with the final culmination in New Delhi. The qualifiers will get a chance to fight for a place in the Roland Garros juniors.
The tennis calender's only claycourt Major begins on May 28.