The duo will play in two ATP Tour events and have a camp prior to the Olympics
NEW DELHI: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have declared ‘ceasefire’, shelved their differences for the moment and decided to prepare in earnest for a shot at the Olympic medal in the Beijing Games.
Following a meeting the two tennis stars had with the secretary general of the All India Tennis Association (AITA), Anil Khanna, in Paris on Monday, it was decided that the two would play in two ATP Tour events and have a preparatory camp in Los Angeles, before proceeding to attend the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics scheduled on August 8.
“Leander and Mahesh, being true patriots and professionals, have agreed to put in their best effort by pairing up for Beijing Olympics to win a medal for the country,” said a release from the AITA, quoting Mr. Khanna.
Playing in Holland
The former world No.1 pair have decided to play the grass court event at s’-Hertogenbosch before Wimbledon. The €350,000 Ordina Open in the Netherlands is scheduled for the week of June 15.
The second tournament for them together would be the $525,000 event at Indianapolis starting on July 14. Otherwise, the two will be with their regular partners Mark Knowles and Lukas Dlouhy on the Tour in the Masters Series events at Toronto and Cincinnati, apart from Wimbledon.
Leander and Mahesh, with their coaches Rick Leach and Scott Davidoff respectively, apart from the trainers will have a camp for a few days in Los Angeles, as a final build-up before proceeding to China.
The two will continue with their preparation in Beijing for a few more days, before the tennis events start on August 11.
“Considering the time constraint, this was the best plan that we could make, to give us a good shot at the Olympic medal”, said Mahesh, as he expressed happiness about the amicable arrangement.
Mahesh, who had announced to the AITA that he would prefer going to the Olympics with Rohan Bopanna rather than go unprepared with his erstwhile partner Leander, said that it helped the planning for an additional tournament before Wimbledon as their regular partners were not playing that week.
Mahesh said that he would be playing with Bopanna at the Queen’s Club tournament.
Bopanna wishes well
Reacting to the positive scenario, Bopanna, waiting to play the final round of the qualifying event against compatriot Prakash Amritraj in a Challenger at Surbiton in the United Kingdom, said that he was not upset and only hoped that the two big brothers of Indian tennis would pull their weight together for an Olympic medal.
“It will be great if the AITA can get me and Prakash a doubles wild card entry for the Olympics”, said Bopanna.
With one wild card being requested for the women’s doubles for Sania Mirza with Sunitha Rao, it may be difficult for AITA to press the case for Bopanna, though it was understood that every effort would have been made to get Leander a wild card entry in case Mahesh had not relented from his tough stand.