Tennis

All eyes on Paes and Bhupathi

SWEATING IT OUT: Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes will be gunning for a record fifth crown at the Chennai Open.

SWEATING IT OUT: Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes will be gunning for a record fifth crown at the Chennai Open.  

The Chennai Open goes back nearly a decade and a half, and certainly boasts of quirks and trends, if not actual history. Attempting to throw down the gauntlet and write themselves into the narrative of the tournament in different ways will be Marin Cilic and the duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.

The tournament has not been kind to the seeds, or defending champions for that matter, with Robin Soderling, Nikolay Davydenko, Magnus Norman, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Richard Krajicek all losing in the first or second round after getting the top billing.

Before Cilic won the first of his back-to-back titles here in 2009, the tournament saw 13 different winners in 14 editions.

Familiar conditions

Coming into the new season from a year-end break, the hot and humid conditions here have been a bit of a roadblock for the players to start rolling from the go and Cilic's familiarity with the climes might give him a leg up.

“I have been here for five years so I knew what to expect before I even got here. I practiced at the same hours as my match tomorrow (Monday) and I have done everything possible to be prepared,” said Cilic, when asked if he was all set for his first round encounter against the potential party-crasher Kei Nishikori.

Nishikori got the better of Cilic in five sets in the U.S. Open and Cilic is leaving nothing to chance.

Caution seems to be the byword for top seeds Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi too, as they attempt to lift the title for a record fifth time. It was here that the two won their first ATP title in 1997. More than six years after their bust up, Chennai will also be the venue for their official reconciliation. The pair will play together at least until the Australian Open, the only major (men's doubles) that has eluded the pair.

Special place

“This has always been a special place for me and Mahesh (Bhupathi). We have won four doubles titles here besides me reaching the semifinal in singles. We are taking it match by match, and haven't set any targets as such. We are returning from a six-month lay-off, so we need to find rhythm, focus and get into the groove,” said Paes.

On the prospect of running into the Indo-Pak express of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, Paes said: “They have been shaping well, but frankly we haven't thought much about the match. We have two-three matches before that. Since everyone's returning after a lay-off, we have to be careful. In the past, there have been a lot of upsets in the tournament.”

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 8:22:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/All-eyes-on-Paes-and-Bhupathi/article15503953.ece

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