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Olympic medal ranks above Grand Slams: Bhupathi

Last updated on: July 12, 2012 16:59 IST

Olympic medal ranks above Grand Slams: Bhupathi

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Harish Kotian

It hasn't been the ideal preparation for Mahesh Bhupathi heading into the London Olympics.

First, there was the controversy over team selection for the men's doubles after he refused to partner Leander Paes. Then, he was slammed by his mixed doubles partner, Sania Mirza, and knocked out early at Wimbledon in both the events he participated in.

But with the dust having settled down, the 38-year-old tennis ace, who will be participating in his fifth, and probably last, Games, is looking to realise his dream of winning a medal from the quadrennial sports jamboree. The wait for one, he declared, "has been extremely painful".


Image: Mahesh Bhupathi
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

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'The hardest thing for an athlete to win is an Olympic medal'

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Bhupathi, who has 13 Grand Slam titles to his name, said an Olympic medal ranks way above any other prize in tennis, including the Grand Slams, because the Games are held once in four years.

"The Olympics come once in four years. We play Grand Slams every year; Davis Cup is a yearly thing too. I think it is every athlete's dream to win an Olympic medal for his country," he said, in Mumbai on Thursday, where he was presented the Omega special edition London 2012 watch.

"As far as expectations are concerned, the hardest thing for an athlete to win is an Olympic medal. We [he and Rohan Bopanna] feel we have a shot as good as the rest. We need to play well; we need to have some luck and things will fall into place," the doubles specialist added.


Image: Mahesh Bhupathi (left) with PH Narayanan (Brand Manager - Omega India)
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

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'It is possibly the hardest doubles event in the world'

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Bhupathi said winning a medal in doubles at the Olympics is tougher than winning one in singles because it features the best players from singles and doubles.

"The Olympic doubles event is possibly the hardest doubles event in the world because you have got every top singles guy trying to get Olympics glory and all the top doubles teams are there as well. So there are no easy matches, no free lunches; so we have to focus on our first round match first and then worry about the rest later," he said.


Image: Mahesh Bhupathi
Photographs: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Tags: Bhupathi

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'We have been preparing very hard for the Olympics'

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Bhupathi had refused to partner Paes, stating that he would play only with Bopanna. After a few weeks of deliberations, and pressure from various quarters, the All India Tennis Association caved in to his demand. A compromise formula, wherein Paes would partner the lowly-ranked Vishnu Vardhan in the men's doubles and Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles.

Asked whether it was right to turn down Paes and deprive the country of its best doubles pair at the Games, Bhupathi refused to comment.

Instead, he pointed out that he and Bopanna had planned their Olympic preparation since the last seven months and are working hard towards claiming glory at the mega event.

"Obviously, in a doubles team you have to find the best ways you can compliment each other so that you can get the best results. Rohan and me have been working at it for the last seven months. I started with the deuce and he moved to the deuce early in February and since then it has been working for us. We have been practicing pretty hard and we are looking forward to the Games," he said.

"We have been preparing very hard for the Olympics for some months now. This year it has been very difficult for us travel-wise, because we are playing as many tournaments as possible to get ready," he added.


Image: Mahesh Bhupathi (right) with Leander Paes
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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'Luckily, the Olympics will be played on grass'

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Bhupathi also refused to read too much into his failure in the men's and mixed doubles at Wimbledon, saying the reverses will only help him perform better at the Games.

"Luckily, the Olympics will be played on grass, and the grasscourt season has just ended. So, for the last four weeks we have been practicing very hard. Obviously, the results at Wimbledon didn't go our way, but practice continues and the tournaments continue.

"Rohan and me have been training hard and we are full-time partners on the tour. You need some kind of preparation, because we are not as talented as Roger [Federer] or Rafa [Nadal] to pick up the pieces and win a medal. We felt it was extremely necessary to go with proper preparation and, hence, we have," he said.


Image: Mahesh Bhupathi (left) with Rohan Bopanna
Photographs: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Tags: Bhupathi , ONadal , Rafa

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