Putting his controversial relationship with Leander Paes aside, Mahesh Bhupathi, on Tuesday, recollected the golden days he shared with his estranged doubles partner and said their achievements for Indian tennis may not be replicated ever.
"You have to put controversy aside… both of us together, what we were able to achieve as a team from 1996 to 2002, I don't think it will ever be replicated in the sport of tennis," Bhutpahi said at the book launch of 'A History of Indian Sport Through 100 Artefacts' by Boria Majumdar.
"Two kids coming up from below 100 to be number one in the world is very special. Obviously things did not work out for respective reasons. We tried a lot of times, but it did not work out." In his latest controversy with Paes, India's non-playing Davis Cup captain Bhupathi had dumped the veteran star and picked Rohan Bopanna for the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania tie against Uzbekistan that India won 4-1 in Bengaluru.
"I don't think you can fault us for not trying. We kept giving our best shot because we know how special a relationship it is for not just us but the country as well," Bhupathi said visibly upset that he did not see his picture with Paes at the Fanattic Sports Museum at Eco Space.
"Probably a picture signed by both of us deserved to be there in the museum," Bhupathi added.
Asked about the controversies, he said: "In global sport, it's part and parcel. Everything is reported in media nowadays, and most of the time it's over exaggerated. In 1996-97, there were about two-three TV channels. Today we have 200-300. Anything you put out is magnified by 200 times. Unfortunately that's the world we live in."
In their partnership spanning 16 years, the pair won 25 ATP doubles title together, including three Grand Slams.
The Indian duo have a 303–103 career record together with a Davis Cup record of longest winning streak in doubles, with 23 straight victories.
India will next take on Canada in an away fixture in the the Davis Cup World Group Play-off to be held from September 15-17.
Asked whether Paes would be considered for the tie, Bhupathi said: "We will see. We have a very tough match against Canada and we need to go prepared. It's another chance for us to go into the World Group so we are excited."
Image: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi with the 1999 French Open title
Photograph: Stu Forster/Allsport