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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Don't want to discuss Paes' row: Mahesh

Mahesh Bhupathi

Mahesh Bhupathi, who recently gave Indian tennis a jolt by refusing to partner with the country’s number one player Leander Paes in the Olympics and finally got his way (to have Rohan Boppana as his partner), is in London at the moment with his wife Lara Dutta and daughter Saira.

He spoke to BT at length about everything ranging from the controversy and his preparation for the upcoming Olympics to his baby Saira.

All set for the Olympics?

The Olympics is always super special, more so for us tennis players this year, since it will be held at Wimbledon. We have already done most of our preparation over the last six months. Now with only three weeks to go, the focus is on maintenance and making sure we are healthy and sharp when we start on July 28.

This time around, considering the recent controversy, is there more stress on you?

The fact that Olympics comes once in four years, as opposed to the Grand Slam events which are yearly, makes us both eager and anxious to win that medal. Pressure is part and parcel of any profession and winning a medal at the Olympics for your country comes with a lot of pressure. That’s the bottomline… when the time comes to deliver, we have to be ready.

You must’ve been very disappointed with Sania Mirza and you losing at Wimbledon?

Yes, of course, every loss hurts but that’s the nature of our sport. We won the French Open and semis in Australia and lost early in London, but the fact is, we don’t really have time to celebrate or sulk as we have to start preparing for the next event around the corner.

You said one of the reasons for your loss was the stress related to the controversy that went on back home?

Yes, it was totally unnecessary. Those 10 days took a lot out of all of us involved and that showed in our tennis on court too. However, now we have moved on and started preparing for the Olympics. As professionals, it is another instance of how politics rules over sport, but we live and learn.

The nation would have liked to see you and Leander as India’s doubles team at the Olympics. People feel the two of you should have sorted things out in the interest of the country.

I’ve said whatever I had to in my earlier press statements. I don’t wish to discuss this anymore.

Will Lara and your six-month-old daughter be accompanying you to the Olympics?

Yes, they will. It will be my daughter’s Saira’s first Olympics. Hopefully, it’s going to be a fun ten days for all of us.

What’s the role Lara plays in your stressful times on the court?

Lara provides encouragement and support as my partner when I am playing my game. Not only that, she gives me the space I require when I am involved in a challenging game. I think it’s easier for her since she works hard and knows the pressures and challenges that come from a profession that demands constant travel.

Has fatherhood changed you?

My priorities have changed today. I struggle to leave home and I come home a lot more. Lara and Saira were recently in London with me (after the French Open) so we got to spend Father’s Day together.

Are you a hands-on father?

That one month in London, I was a lot more hands on. Saira has changed my life. As hard as we fight to win on court, once I walk off court, when I see her smile it makes winning and losing irrelevant. She smiles at me no matter what the result.

Apart from Saira, your other baby is your film production company. What is your next film going to be?

We have locked two scripts, which we are currently casting for. Till that’s complete we are not able to announce them.

Like Leander, do you plan to act in films too?

No, cameras are not my thing. I shot an ad with Lara a few weeks ago and I had panic attacks about it before we shot for it.

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