Mahesh Bhupathi, who has partnered Leander Paes to three Grand Slam men's doubles crowns, is hopeful of meeting the Indian compatriot in the men's doubles final of the USD 3,80,000 Kingfisher Airlines Mumbai Open starting at the Cricket Club of India next week.
The country's two top players, who were dubbed the Indian Express when they were at the peak in combination on the ATP doubles circuit, are currently playing with different partners and may end up on opposite sides of the net in the tennis tournament in Mumbai.
Paes and his Czech partner Martin Damm are the reigning US Open Champions following their triumphant run in this year's last Grand Slam event in New York while 32-year-old Bhupathi partnered young Croatian Mario Ancic for the first time at Beijing last week and won the China Open doubles crown.
"We (Bhupathi and Ancic) may not be seeded and I am hoping that the two teams (Bhupathi-Ancic and Paes-Damm) would meet in the final," said Bhupathi at a press conference held to announce a new associate sponsor - Aviva Life Insurance - for the Mumbai ATP event on Tuesday.
Bhupathi refused to draw a comparison between his new 22-year-old partner Ancic and Paes, saying he and the Croat have joined hands only recently.
"It's tough to compare (Ancic with Paes). We have just come together (as doubles partners). He (Ancic) is a great player, a top ten player in singles (Ancic is currently ranked 11th)," Bhupathi said.
The Indian star also recalled the bronze medal play-off loss in combination with Paes against Ancic and his compatriot Ivan Ljubicic in the Athens Olympic Games two years ago, where the Indian pair lost a five-set thriller in the bronze medal play-off.
Looking forward to the tournament, which is being promoted by his celebrity management firm Globosport, Bhupathi hoped that the rains which have been lashing the city over the last week, stayed away.
"If the rain allows, hopefully, we will get to see some tennis," he said.