Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi got together for a special chat on Wimbledon's Facebook Live where they spoke about several things, including their doubles partnership.
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi on their doubles partnership
Speaking about how they teamed up to play doubles for the first time, Bhupathi said, "There was no concrete decision to pair up.
Leander wanted to play with me for the first time in Jakarta in 1994. I remember I was there trying to play qualifying in singles and Leander came in, he saw me at the lobby and he came straight up to me and asked me to play.
His first words to me was ‘I was supposed to play with Shuzo Matsuoka but he has just pulled out and so I am looking for a partner and I think I want to play with you because I think we can win’. For someone like me who was pretty low-ranked in singles, it was obviously pretty exciting.
I also felt that he was pretty arrogant because he kind of told me that I am only playing with you because I think we can win. But obviously, he knew what he was talking about." The duo spoke also spoke about what led them to become a successful doubles team.
Paes commented, "The magic of the Indian Express was that we always had each other’s back. No matter what happened, we covered each other on the court. I think that was the great thing about our partnership; that Mahesh’s strengths were my weaknesses and vice versa.
But the camaraderie we had, the understanding we had on the court [was special]. Even when we didn’t play together but when we got back to playing Davis Cup or I am sure even today if we got back on the court to play that kinetic understanding about who covers which shot or who is taking which ball is just incredible understanding."
Bhupathi said their ability to problem-solve on the court helped them in their doubles partnership. "I think. We were both exceptional doubles players in our individual capacity. But we were able to assess the weaknesses of our oppositions and we were able to problem-solve when things were not going well.
One of the stats that nobody talks about about our careers is the number of matches when we came back and won from being down, match-points specifically. Even when the last Chennai Open we won in 2011, we were down three match points in the first round against a guy who was serving 140.
That was one of the things we did really well. We more than often figured out a way to win. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi won the 1999 French Open and Wimbledon Grand Slams as well as the 2001 French Open. In 1999, Bhupathi and Paes became the first doubles team to reach the finals of all four Grand Slams, the first time such a feat had been achieved in the Open era and the first time since 1952. They also became the World No. 1 doubles team in 1999.