x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

India court drama playing out like a Bollywood movie

The latest chapter in the Leander Paes-Mahesh Bhupathi row has the latter, and his doubles partner, Rohan Bopanna, being punished with exclusion from the India Davis cup team through June 2014. Stay tuned, says Ahmed Rizvi

Mahesh Bhupathi, right, and Leander Paes made a formidable double team at one time, winning two French Open titles and another at Wimbledon before their falling out.
Mahesh Bhupathi, right, and Leander Paes made a formidable double team at one time, winning two French Open titles and another at Wimbledon before their falling out.

Three months ago, Mahesh Bhupathi was the talk of the Indian media after his refusal to partner Leander Paes at the London Olympics, calling him a "back stabber".

"The ship that I and Leander boarded has sailed a long time ago," Bhupathi said in June. "We have split four times, gone to the Olympics four times and returned empty-handed. For us going back to the Olympics [together] is in the worst possible in the interest of the country."

Instead, Bhupathi wanted to go to London with Rohan Bopanna, 32. The two had been playing together on the professional tour for a few months before the Games, winning the men's double title in Dubai. They had come together for the sole purpose of preparing for the Olympics.

Bhupathi eventually got his way and Paes partnered Vishnu Vardhan in London.

Both pairs made an early exit.

But the rebellion, as expected, did not go down well with the mandarins at the All India Tennis Association, and on Sunday, Bhupathi and Bopanna were suspended from playing for the country until the end of June 2014.

This could mean the end of Bhupathi's national team career. He deserves a better farewell, but this is what he has chosen for himself.

The present state of the relationship between Paes and Bhupathi is a far cry from the days they started playing doubles together in the mid-1990s. Like a typical Bollywood movie, they were the best of friends at the start before turning into sworn enemies.

The chemistry between Paes and Bhuptahi brought plenty of success, with the pair reaching the finals of all four grand slams in 1999, winning the French Open and Wimbledon. They were the top-ranked doubles team in the world at the time and added another French Open crown in 2001.

Hailing them as the "Indian Express", the country celebrated the two heroes, unaware of the tensions brewing between them. According to the whispers, an Indian model was the cause. One was dating her and the other, according to people in the know, had his eyes on her. The situation had its inevitable consequences and the strain between the two engulfed others in the tennis community.

The father of Paes claimed Enrico Piperno, Bhupathi's coach at the time, was the reason they could not play together.

Since then, there have been twists and turns in the tale. Every attempt to return as a team has been marred by one-upmanship, churlishness and opportunism.

It is almost certain they will never play together again, but is this the end of this drama? Certainly not, as Bhupathi warned in a tweet.

"The cranky old grandfathers on the executive committee, who have never played tennis waiting for a reaction?," he tweeted. "There is one coming. Stay tuned!"

arizvi@thenational.ae

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