| Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna during their second-round match, on Tuesday |
London: Ahead of the London Games, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna fought a lengthy battle with the All India Tennis Association (AITA).
The duo were determined to play with each other, saying it would serve the interest of the nation. The y were successful in their fight as they forced the association to pair them together.
However, when the pair was expected to fight with their heart and soul on the field, they failed to show any verve. On court No. 11 at Wimbledon, the pair looked exhausted. Pitted against Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet of France in the second round, the Indians lost the match tamely 3-6, 4-6 in only 77 minutes.
What was more disappointing was the loss came even after Benneteau’s thigh muscle injury, which he suffered midway through the first set and had problems in moving around the court.
With the French side leading 3-1, Benneteau had to be treated on the sidelines and the match was stopped for five minutes. Yet, the Indians could not take advantage of it. So upsetting was the defeat that there were tears in Bhupathi’s eyes when everything was over.
There was so much interest about the match that almost every Indian Olympic contingent member was present at the occasion. The list of spectators also included the family members of Bhupathi and Bopanna. Practising on the adjacent courts were other Indian players — Leander Paes, Vishnu Vardhan, Somdev Dev Varman, Sania Mirza and Rushmi Chakravarthy.
Once the match was over, Bhupathi and Bopanna walked off without talking to the media only to return later.
Bhupathi said he was extremely upset with the defeat. “Rohan played well, but I could not give my best. It was a well-fought match. We could not utilise the opportunities,” Bhupathi said.
Asked whether he would pair up with Bopanna in the next Olympics, too, Bhupathi said: “I will cheer for him from outside the court.”
Bopanna did not look happy either. When asked whether he would go and watch the second round match involving the other Indians — Paes and Vardhan — later in the night.
“For your kind information, the match has been postponed till Thursday. And why do you ask such questions? We are all here to cheer for India,” Bopanna snapped.
Bopanna said that their differences with Paes and the AITA had no effect on their performance. “This is something the media has been talking about for days. There is no substance in it,” he said.
On the court, the Frenchmen were simply too sharp for the duo. Gasquet had lost his singles match earlier in the day to Cypriot Marcus Baghdatis. He looked determined to make amends and formed a fine combination with Benneteau. They faced little problem in the first set, especially after Bhupathi was broken in the third game.
In the second set, the Indians looked like making a comeback when they broke Gasquet’s serve in the second game and moved up 3-0. But the French pair fought back to break Bopanna’s serve in the fifth game and then surged ahead, breaking Bhupathi’s serve again in the ninth game for a 5-4 lead.