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Paes-Bhupathi duel to add spice in dull doubles draw

Mumbai: Despite two or three late pullouts, the singles field at the inaugural ATP event in Mumbai has been quite impressive: two players from the world’s top-10, one top-20 and one top-25, besides a former Grand Slam winner. The tennis connoisseur shouldn’t have any reason to complain.

The doubles field, though, is nothing to rave about. The top seeds this week were Alexander Peya (world No. 55) and Bjorn Phau (73). They got knocked out by Indians Rohan Bopanna and Mustafa Ghouse in the very first round.

Sustaining interest in doubles are those redoubtable homegrown champions Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.

Paes, fresh from his US Open triumph with Martin Damm, hasn’t got his regular partner this week. But his decision to pair up with Aisam Qureshi has given this maiden Indo-Pak joint venture a different dimension. Bhupathi, on the other hand, is playing with Mario Ancic and the Indo-Croat team is hoping to make it two titles in as many meets after having triumphed in Beijing a fortnight ago.

The draw has pitted Team Paes against Team Bhupathi in the quarter finals. But with the German pair of Denis Gremelmayr and Simon Greul withdrawing from their half, the Paes versus Bhupathi clash has become a virtual semi-final.

This will be Paes and Bhupathi’s 14th ATP doubles clash, with the senior pro holding a 7-6 edge. This year, the ‘score’ stands at 1-1. Interestingly, this is the first time the two ex-partners will be locking horns on home soil. The attendance at the CCI has been improving with every passing day, but the organisers are banking on this match to attract a full house (the capacity at the makeshift centre court is about 3,500) on Super Saturday.

PAES-BHUPATHI clashes so far

Following is list of doubles clashes between Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi on the ATP Tour:

1999 Indianapolis, Round 2: Paes & O. Delaitre bt Bhupathi & A. Pavel 6-4, 2-6, 6-3
2002 Hamburg Masters Series, Round 2: Bhupathi & J. Gambill bt Paes & T. Cibulec 6-2, 4-6, 10-5 (special tie-break)
2003 Wimbledon, semis: Bhupathi & Mirnyi bt Paes & Rikl 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3
2003 French Open, quarters: Paes & Rikl bt Bhupathi & Mirnyi 3-6, 7-5, 6-3
2003 Indian Wells, Round 2: Paes & Rikl bt Bhupathi & T. Henman 6-3, 3-6, 6-2
2004 Madrid Masters, Round 1: Bhupathi & Mirnyi bt Paes & Rikl 6-4, 7-6 (7-4)
2004 Hamburg Masters Series, Round 2: Paes & D. Rikl bt Bhupathi & M. Mirnyi 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
2004 Dubai, final: Bhupathi & F. Santoro bt Paes & Bjorkman 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
2005 Madrid Masters Series, quarters: Paes & Zimonjic bt Bhupathi & Damm 7-6 (7-3), 7-5
2005 Bangkok, semis: Paes & P. Hanley bt Bhupathi & J. Gimelstob 6-4, 6-5 (7-5)
2005 Sydney, quarters: Bhupathi & T. Woodbridge bt Paes & N. Zimonjic 3-1 (retd)
2006 Monte Carlo Masters Series, Round 2: Bhupathi & Radek Stepanek bt Paes & Damm 6-1, 6-4
2006 Australian Open, Round 3: Paes & M. Damm bt Bhupathi & W. Moodie 3-6, 6-2, 6-3

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