India rests medal hopes on Lee-Hesh

Updated: 01 August 2008 06:36 IST

Paes and Bhupathi have come together to enhance India's medal prospects in the Olympics but whether the duo can recreate their magic remains to be seen.

India rests medal hopes on Lee-Hesh

New Delhi:

Star tennis duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have kept aside their differences and come together to enhance India's medal prospects in the Beijing Olympics but whether the ageing duo can recreate their magic remains to be seen.

Paes and Bhupathi, who captured the public imagination being the former world number one doubles pair, had missed a medal by a whisker in the Athens Games and would look better their performance to land on podium next month.

That Paes had won a bronze medal in 1996 at the Atlanta Games further strengthens the nations faith on the duo, who have a superb on-field chemistry.

The 35-year-old Paes, who has resolved his differences with Bhupathi for the time-being in the interest of the nation, believes "on-court chemistry is something we don't have to worry about" but they needed to concentrate of their off-field "camaraderie".

"As far as tennis goes, it is of a very high level," he said in the build up to the Olympics.

Sania Mirza, the singles campaigner, is struggling to find form after making a comeback following a wrist injury and considering the strongest ever women's field, it would need an extraordinary performance from the Hyderabadi if India has to land on podium.

Seven players from the top-10 zone, led by number one Serbian Ana Ivanovic will present their challenge in Beijing.

Sania will also battle it out in women's doubles with US based Sunitha Rao. The pair have been given wild card. Both of them have hardly played together and they have just a few days ahead of the biggest sporting extravaganza to be in sync with each other.

However, the pair is capable of springing a surprise and can not be written off.

Going by the form of men's players, Paes and Bhupathi have been doing well off late with their respective ATP Tour partners though they did not play together enough.

However, Paes had recently claimed that finding that old 'chemistry' won't be a problem for the duo and playing too many together was not necessary.

They have played two tournaments together in run up to the Olympic event and met with moderate success, ending as finalists in one and crashing out in first round in other.

Apart from the tough doubles field, the personal differences pose a big challenge for them.

The February revolt against Davis Cup skipper Paes by team-mates Bhupathi, Prakash Amritraj and Rohan Bopanna has left many a bruised hearts.

The revolting players were not willing to play under Paes in the Davis Cup tie against Japan and questioned leadership qualities of the skipper.

The unprecedented revolt shocked the Indian tennis fraternity though a sensible AITA managed to defuse the tension and left the matter for post Olympic time.

Paes and Bhupathi from there have played two tournaments and reached the finals of s'Hertogenbosch tournament, sending enough hints that the magic of their partnership has not lost.

Separately on the tour Paes may not have won any title this year, he has managed to reach two finals, three semifinals, including Wimbledon and two quarterfinals.

Bhupathi has done extremely well with partner Mark Knowles by winning two tournaments out of five summit clash appearances.

So, form is not a worrying factor.

They face stiff challenges from American Bryan brothers, who are undoubtedly favourites to win the title. Israel's Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich are also a lethal pair, who will be tough to overcome at later stages of the tournament.

Nenad Zimonzic of Serbia and Canadian Daniel Nestor, who beat Bob and Mike Bryan to lift the Rogers Masters tournament on Sunday also makes a formidable but as they will be playing separately, it remains to be seen how they perform with their compatriots.

Sania on the other hand, has not had a good year so far. She has been doing well in doubles but in singles she has put up a below average performance.

In the last two months she has not gone beyond the second round in the three tournaments she played.

Looking at the field, which has sizzling Serbians -- Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic -- and powerful Willimas sister apart from classy Russian -- Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina -- the road is indeed tough for Sania.

Topics : Tennis Leander Paes
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