The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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How Martina ‘hijacked’ Leander

Calcutta: Martina Navratilova was looking for a partner to play mixed doubles with at the US Open. So was Leander Paes. The moment the two came across each other at the National Tennis Center in New York last week, a ‘deal’ was struck.

“The first day I was walking towards the tournament office at Flushing Meadow, somebody appeared from nowhere and blocked my path,” Paes told The Telegraph Friday. “I was surprised to find Martina (Navratilova) in my way.

“Her first words surprised me even more… ‘You are playing with me,’ she said emphatically. And that was it. I couldn’t say no, I didn’t wish to. It’s an honour to be playing with such a great champion,” Paes remarked.

Paes had been forced to hunt for a new partner as Lisa Raymond opted out of a long-standing ‘relationship.’

“She wanted to play with a fellow-American because of marketing and sponsorship factors, so she teamed up with Mike Bryan,” explained Paes, who won Wimbledon with Raymond in 2000 and finished second-best last year.

“Arantxa (Sanchez-Vicario) was interested in playing with me but after Martina’s offer, it was an easy decision to make,” informed Paes.

Navratilova and Paes start against top seeds Todd Woodbridge and Rennae Stubbs. “That would be an interesting match… Lisa and I lost to Todd and Rennae in a championship tie-break in last year’s final,” said Paes.

This will be Navratilova’s second Indian ‘liaison’ in Grand Slams. She had joined forces with Mahesh Bhupathi at the 2000 Wimbledon and lost a three-set classic to Dutch pair Jan Siemerink and Miriam Oremans.

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