Thursday, 7 January 2010

Bhupathi: Paes and I are still good for Commonwealth Gold

Doubles ace Mahesh Bhupathi firmly believes that the combination of him and Leander Paes still remains India’s best chance for a Gold in the doubles of the Commonwealth Games that is to be held in New Delhi later this year.

After pairing up with Rohan Bopanna to outclass the Americans James Cerretani and Travis Rettenmaier 6-3, 7-6 in a first round doubles match at the Nungambakkam tennis stadium, Bhupathi sounded excited about the Commonwealth Games.

“It has become big for us because it is being played in our backyard for the first time. Personally, I feel India have a huge chance of winning quite a few medals at the Commonwealth Games,” said Bhupathi.

“Actually, we can sweep all the medals at stake (in tennis), but for that we have to play well and plan properly,” he said.

Asked whether he would partner Bopanna instead of Paes, Bhupathi said: “I don’t think so. It is still me and Leander who have the best chance of winning gold.”

But then, what about the controversy they generate whenever they play together? Bhupathi smiled and pointed out that there has been no controversy in the past two years, and urged not start one now. We all will be playing for the nation in the Commonwealth Games.

Bhupathi said he was focusing on the new season and that his aim was to win the Australian Open doubles, a trophy missing from his cabinet.

Bhupathi said Bopanna had a bright future and should soon emerge as a top doubles player. As to whether doubles was hampering Bopanna’s chances in singles, Bhupathi said it was part of the game and a player should be able to balance the two.

“I know he (Bopanna) is playing both singles and doubles and trying to find a balance between the two. He is a good player and needs to take care of his singles as well. I understand it sometimes becomes difficult to maintain the singles ranking, but that’s part of the game. One has to live with it in tennis,” said the seasoned campaigner.

For the ongoing meet, he and Bopanna are taking things match by match. “We have just started playing together, so far we have a hundred per cent record from one match (laughs). We are at the moment taking it match by match. At the same time, we are careful as well. We can’t take anything for granted. It’s a tough tournament.”

Bhupathi said it was wrong to suggest that the absence of qualifiers in the doubles event of ATP tournaments had made it difficult for youngsters to play at top meets.

“It is not exactly like that,” he said. “One can still make it to bigger events by doing well in the Challengers. Look at the pair we play next (Colin Fleming and Ker Skupski). Last year they played in Challengers and, I believe, won a couple of them. And now they are playing here. If one starts playing well, he will definitely get a chance.”

On Yuki Bhambri, Mahesh said: “He has been doing well. Everybody around is impressed with him. He is still young and by the time he is 21, I am sure he would have grown as an athlete. Hopefully, he will be a strong player for India.”


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