Indian tennis aces kick off campaign on Monday

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will have to ensure that clash of egos doesn't jeopardise national interest.

Updated: August 12, 2008 07:49 IST
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Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will have to ensure that clash of egos doesn't jeopardise national interest, while Sania Mirza needs to prove that she is more than czarina of foofaraw when the tennis aces begin their campaign in the Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing on Monday.

Particularly for Paes and Bhupathi, erstwhile pals who does not see eye-to-eye but are ready to stand together to shoulder for the nation's cause, it's nothing short of their day of reckoning when they take on French pair of Gael Monfils and Gilles Simons.

In happier days, they won three Grand Slams together and almost brought India an Olympic medal in Athens before Croatian pair of Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic spoiled their party.

Four years later, they have an opportunity to write that record. Paes is already keyed up and the Davis Cup captain, who tasted glory in Atlanta more than a decade back, says he is gunning for his second Olympic medal. "I won the bronze in Atlanta (in singles) and I now I want a double," he told reporters at the Olympic Village before the Games began.

"The defeat in Athens still hurts. It rankles me that we lost it when we were just two match points away from a win and a medal. I want to right the wrong here," he said. Like them, Sania too has a reputation to keep in tact and the Hyderabadi ace has to prove her mettle early as she meets her Czech nemesis Iveta Benesova in the first round of the singles event.

To be fair, the draw has not been kind to Sania, whose all three attempts to checkmate the Czech has proved futile. But Olympic is a different ball game all together where umpteen unheralded Davids have slain many an ATP/WTA Goliaths.

Playing doubles with Sunitha Rao as her comrade-in-arms would definitely increase the workload on Sania but it also hands her an opportunity to show the stuff she is made of. They have hardly played together but the scratch pair does not have time to cry over spilt milk and they have to be at their best when they cross swords with French pair of Tatiana Golovin and Pauline Parmentier on Monday.
Sania seems in a positive frame of mind and she hinted during India's flag raising ceremony that rival's reputation would be the last thing on her mind when she hits the court. "Everyone is here to put up their best effort and so would be I. I'm not thinking much about the field," she said.

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