Blog: Cheering Sania Mirza, Mahesh Bhupathi under the French sun!
The afternoon at Roland Garros started with rain pouring down and the joke going around among Indian fans was that the monsoons had arrived in Paris on the day Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza were playing their mixed doubles final.
The afternoon at Roland Garros started with rain pouring down and the joke going around among Indian fans was that the monsoons had arrived in Paris on the day Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza were playing their mixed doubles final. Hesh tweeted "Pouring rain here in Paris. Gonna be a long wait..... Hmmmmm" There were two women's semi-final matches on the Philippe Chatrier court before Hesh and Sania's match and the play was indeed delayed by over an hour.
But when the downpour stopped the sun was shining very bright all of a sudden and spectators and players alike were all getting baked. Our team was split as only some of us had tickets to watch the match. As we went back and forth around the stadium, we crossed someone on the steps behind the court, who we thought looked like Martina Navratilova. We weren't quite sure so as she went passed us we shouted 'Martina' and she turned around. We asked her to let us take a picture of her and she smiled at our smartphone! It was indeed her. A player that many of us fiercely admired in our childhood. She is a true legend and happens to be a great friend of Leander Paes who was eliminated in the mixed doubles semi-finals alas.
Before the Hesh-Sania match began we rushed to buy hats from the Roland Garros in one of the many shops all called "La Boutique". They cost us 26 euros each. But they didn't really do us any good because when the big match began the sun was behind the stadium and there was shade all over and a chilly breeze.
Hesh and Sania walked on to the court. Their names were announced and it was pointed out that Sania Mirza was the one in the green outfit. Indians in the crowd were shouting out her name. The Roland Garros daily magazine had a picture of Sania and it even said Mahesh and Sania were the big favourites for the match.
For Mahesh this match was really special. The last time he won a title at the French Open was in 1997. It was his first grand slam and it also made him the first Indian to ever win a grand slam. It happened to be his birthday then and here was again playing and winning another mixed doubles at the same Roland Garros on his birthday only 15 years later!
We spotted Sania Mirza's father Imran Mirza sitting in the box right next to our seats. In the beginning he looked a bit tense. He did keep cheering the pair all along saying "Come on! Fight" and Mahesh and Sania would look straight in his direction each time they scored a point. There were a few Indians in the stadium on our side and they kept saying "India" or "shabaash" but not very loudly. They were a bit timid we thought, as compared to the others who loudly said "Allez! Allez!" (Go! Go!) in French.
The official biographies handed to the international press at the stadium said Sania Mirza's favourite player is Steffi Graf. It also mentioned that she likes hip hop and Brad Pitt & Eminem. Mahesh's biography shows an impressive list of grand slams to which he just added one more.
While Bhupathi and Mirza got off to a shaky start in the first set with the polish-mexican pair Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Santiago Gonzalez dominating. Their doubles ranking were Ignacik 57, Gonzales 34, Sania 11 and Bhupathi 13;
At the start, Sania was running forehands in the net and Mahesh was not getting the shots quite right. But then they got back into the match and served well. They won 7-6 after 47 minutes of play. Mahesh shouts "you" or "mine" each time the ball comes towards them. Sania taps her right shoe with her racket and is the one who does the talking each time they try to cheer each other up even when they lose points.
They were on top right from the start in the second set. One could see that Mahesh was an experienced player and Sania ground strokes looked good. The body language of the opponents changed as the Indian pair built pressure on them. They won the match and Sania joked after the match saying it's the best birthday present she could give to Mahesh and won't have to think about what to give him now. Mahesh said it was his first grand slam title since he became father and that his daughter had been watching the match and the title was a gift for her. The entire stadium sang happy birthday to Mahesh while he and Sania were signing autographs.
After the match the Indian pair spoke to NDTV and joked about how the interviews were taking too long so they were not being able to celebrate. They did tell us that they were going out to a special dinner and later Mahesh tweeted their photo with a trophy from what looked like an Indian restaurant in Paris!
(Read: Jinx broken, Bhupathi happy to win 2nd Grand Slam with Sania)
They're both off to the UK now for a long season on grass courts. First Wimbledon and then the hopefully the Olympics. Mahesh revealed to us that his daughter was going to be watching him play at Wimbledon and Sania joked that her better half Shoaib Malik was in India and had sacrificed a Bollywood film to watch the match which was a big thing.