Amitabha Das Sharma

KOLKATA: Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes will be pairing up again, just before the Olympics at Beijing in 2008. Bhupathi, who arrived here on Wednesday to oversee the Sunfeast Open as the managing director of its event manager Globosport, said he would be looking to play a few warm up matches with Paes before the Beijing games. "We did that before the Athens Olympics and might do so before the Beijing Games too," he said.

Bhupathi said his priority now would be to look for a long-term partner on the tour. After having tried a host of partners this season, the Indian tennis ace admitted that he would prefer to have one constant partner with whom he could try and win as many tournaments as possible. The season has seen him try out 11 partners so far. He won the Beijing Open last week with Mario Ancic.

"For now, Ancic and I will be playing the Mumbai ATP next week. But he is a top player and wants to concentrate on his singles career. I am looking at a long-term partner," he said. "There are a few names in my mind, but I would not like to discuss those before it is finalised," he added.

A one-off affair

As far as mixed doubles is concerned, the partnership with Martina Hingis was a one-off affair. "She is through with mixed doubles. She now wants to concentrate on singles. She wanted one title and she got it," he said. On being asked about partnering an Indian player in the mixed doubles, he said: "I would like to, if the opportunity presented itself. But you must understand that I am at a point of my career where I can't experiment too much. I do not have much of tennis left in me and I must win as many as I can," he said.

The idea to pair Sania Mirza with Leander Paes for the Doha Asian Games later this year was an All India Tennis Association's (AITA) decision and Bhupathi said he had accepted that gracefully. "I had a talk with Anil Khanna (the AITA secretary) and he said that he had nothing to with the decision. It was given to a panel of selectors who thought the it would be better to pair Saina with Leander," he said.

Bhupathi said he hoped he had been considered. "There are only three players involved me, Leander and Sania. I am sure I was considered," he said.

Bright future

He said that the future of ATP and WTA tournaments in India was very bright, with more sponsors coming in from time to time. "The big corporate houses are looking at tennis as a viable advertising arena, now that cricket is looking too cluttered," he said.

He revealed that the AITA had approached him to conduct a few ITF events in order have more tournaments for the upcoming Indian players. "We would have love to do it but this criterion should apply to all those who are involved in managing big tennis events in the country," Bhupathi said.

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