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It's over with Paes, says Bhupathi
December 13, 2006 23:46 IST
Immediately after winning the coveted Asian Games doubles gold medal in Doha on Wednesday, Mahesh Bhupathi announced the end of his partnership with Leander Paes, which fetched the former world No 1 pair three Grand Slam titles.
Bhupathi, who was accused of under-performing by Paes after the shock loss to Chinese Taipei in the first round of the men's team event, broke his silence after the gold medal triumph.
"It is over, and thank god it is over on a high, because I feel after we had a career together it would have been unfair anywhere else," the Bangalore-based player said.
Referring to his partner's comments during the Games earlier, Bhupathi said he was hurt and, thankfully, would not have to hear such comments in future.
"I have been living with his comments for the last 12 years. I am hurt. Hopefully, this is the last one since we stopped playing together now," he said.
Bhupathi made it clear that it is definitely the end of the road for the 'Indian Express' on the tennis circuit.
"Unfortunately he did not want to play with me in the beginning. Since he has made his point I will go with it," the winner of 10 Grand Slams said.
Asked about his fitness in the light of Paes questioning his physical conditioning for the mega event, Bhupathi countered: "I felt I played pretty well this whole week. I am sure had I not been fit I would not have been able to bring back gold to India."
He regretted that the famed duo will not team up again.
"Honestly, our story is the biggest tragedy that has ever happened to Indian sport, and I say that I am glad that this tragedy ended on a high note with a gold in the Asian Games," he said.
The pair, which hasn't played together on the professional circuit for quite some time, however teamed up for the Davis Cup as well as multi-disciplinary events, such as the Olympics and Asian Games.
After the defeat to Chinese Taipei in the team event, Paes had hit out at his doubles partner for not playing with honesty.
"I just feel that Hesh (Mahesh Bhupathi) should be honest with himself, his injuries and his tennis," the 33-year-old veteran player had said without mincing any words.
"I have tremendous respect for him. He is a fantastic tennis player and has done a lot for the country. But, at the moment, he needs to be honest with himself," Paes said.
Paes, the captain of the Indian team, had also threatened to drop Bhupathi.
"My job, not only as a player but also as a captain, is to choose the best team to win medals and unfortunately with that (Bhupathi's) performance we have to do a rethink."
Mahesh's father C G K Bhupathi had termed Paes' comments as "unethical" and questioned his commitment instead.
"It's not fair on the part of the captain to comment this way, it's unethical," Bhupathi Sr had said. "How can one partner point a finger at the other and say they lost the match because of him? What if the other also stoops to that level."
Speaking about the title clash against Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana, Bhupathi lauded the performance of the Thai pair.
"They (the Thais) were playing really good, but we did very well. We got each other fired up. We kept a superior level. It was a tiring game and the job is done."
Paes said he was happy to have successfully defended their title.
"I am just relieved. It's been a really long week, and to come up with the win is really great. I must say we have worked hard all week. We have done a lot of practice and you can see that we have come up with wins.
The Indian pair's fighting qualities saw them through, the Kolkata-born player felt.
"We must have saved seven or eight match points in the second set. It just goes to show that we fought hard, and won by the skin of our teeth.
Winning the second set after staring down the barrel was the turning point of the encounter, Paes said.
"I must congratulate the Thais; they threw everything at us. But once we won the second set, and I knew we were going to win. They were unlucky not to win the match in straight sets."
Sanchai Ratiwatana was gracious in defeat.
"I had a great feeling about today. I tried everything I could to win, but we just lost. They played really well and on the important points; they were just unbelievable. It's a great feeling to play here, and especially to play at this level," he said.
Doha Asian Games 2006: The Complete Coverage