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|September 10, 1999||
The Rediff Interview /Mahesh Bhupathi and Ai Sugiyama
'Japanese girls are lucky for me'
Excerpts from the official post-match interview given by Mahesh Bhupathi and Ai Sugiyama, after winning the mixed doubles title at the ongoing US Open championships:
How does it feel after winning the '97 French Open and '98 Wimbledon finals, coming and winning this US Open Grand Slam?
How about you?
Ai Sugiyama: It's great. This is my first Grand Slam title. I've been enjoying playing with Mahesh. I feel so good about it.
You won with a Japanese partner twice. What is the secret? Is it coincidence? What's the luck?
Mahesh Bhupathi: That's exactly it, I think. Japanese girls are lucky for me (laughter).
How did you two happen to get together?
Ai Sugiyama: This time?
Mahesh Bhupathi: I think I asked her to play at the French Open.
Ai Sugiyama: Yeah.
Mahesh Bhupathi: There was a misunderstanding at Wimbledon, so we didn't play. She asked if I wanted to play here.
Ai Sugiyama: Yeah.
Why did you ask her?
Mahesh Bhupathi: Because, I mean, I think she's Top 10 in the world.
Ai Sugiyama: Yeah, 12.
Mahesh Bhupathi: I've always known that she's a good doubles player. She likes to play the forehand. I like to play the backhand. I thought we could make a good combination.
What do you like best about playing with Mahesh?
Ai Sugiyama: Well, I mean, he's great, especially at the net. He's everywhere. I'm very comfortable at the baseline, but Mahesh doesn't care to not come in. It was good. I feel very comfortable playing with him. Once again, I'm enjoying too much to play with him. Yeah, I had a great time. Most important thing in mixed doubles is to enjoy. Yeah, it was best.
What do you like best about playing with her?
Mahesh Bhupathi: I think the best part is, win or lose, she's always smiling on the court. No matter what situation it is. That keeps me very relaxed. Especially in the last game today, I was serving for the match, down three or four breakpoints. When your partner is smiling and egging you on, that's always a good thing.
How was the match?
Mahesh Bhupathi: We knew we were playing well coming into the final. Both Don and Kimberly like to serve-and-volley. Our strength is our returns. We knew if we could get returning well, Kimberly was serving really well in the beginning. We eventually had to break down at 4-all in the first. Ai played really well from the back today. She stayed back and ripped a lot of balls. Those guys kept coming at us, but she kept passing and lobbing them. I think that was one of the reasons why we won.
When you entered this tournament, was there any kind of feeling or emotion or strategy that you're going to try and win it?
Mahesh Bhupathi: To be honest, mixed doubles, you can never tell. You could lose first round; you could end up winning it. You've just got to take it one step at a time. Once you get to the semifinal, that's when you know you have a chance to win the title. That's maybe when you put a little more focus on the event.
Q. Do you get out of the way for the overheads? Do you say "Yours" a lot, or does he say "Yours" a lot?
Ai Sugiyama: I feel if I can take it, I take it. Most of the time I say, "You." He's very good cover. Yeah, I mean, he plays great, I think. Our combination was good, I guess.
You smile constantly during the match. Are you always so happy?
Ai Sugiyama: Well, yeah, I'm enjoying playing mixed doubles with Mahesh. He also make me really relaxed all the time. Even if I miss an easy one, he said he don't mind, "Play tough." I feel really good on the court always.
What do you think this will do at home for you, the news of this?
Ai Sugiyama: At home? Well, you can see that all the Japanese here also, they are showing on TV our semifinals and finals match, which is very good. I think a lot of Japanese coming here to watch our matches. I hope they enjoy it and they also happy. I'm really glad that they support us.
How does this compare with the major tournaments that you've won?
Mahesh Bhupathi: As I said already, Grand Slams are special. You grow up as a junior tennis player, you always dream about winning one Grand Slam title. I've already won one in the mixed. It's even more special winning another one. People might think, "This guy's a one-time wonder." Winning another title, I think, is even that much more special.
What does the boost of today's win give you going into tomorrow's final?
Mahesh Bhupathi: Happy and confident. Hopefully I can take it on the court tomorrow.
Is she a better partner than Leander?
Mahesh Bhupathi: I'll skip that one (*laughter*).
He can probably beat her in singles, although I'm not sure. She has to be a very good partner to win a championship like this. Does she have any of the attributes that he has?
Mahesh Bhupathi: To be honest, as a tennis player, they're totally opposite. Leander is always chipping to come in. She always has such solid groundstrokes, she's always ripping from the back.
Courtesy: United States Tennis Association
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