| Mahesh: Shaping up again with new partner
Calcutta: The first three months of 2003 have been a disaster for Mahesh Bhupathi on the professional front. His results with Joshua Eagle went from bad to worse leaving the former world No. 1 doubles player no option but to explore alternatives.
Fortunately for Bhupathi, it turned out to be the best possible option: a reunion with Max Mirnyi. No wonder the Bangalorean has quickly shut out the past and is fondly looking ahead.
“Yeah, I am quite thrilled and excited at the prospect of playing with Max again,” Bhupathi said after his first day’s workout with Davis Cup teammates at the South Club. “We had a great run last year and will hopefully do it again.”
Besides claiming the US Open doubles trophy last year, Bhupathi won three other titles with Mirnyi and made a couple of more finals as well. They had to part ways at the start of this season as the Belarussian wanted to concentrate more on his singles.
“He (Mirnyi) was playing doubles off and on this year but with singles specialists. That gave him the option to opt out of doubles any week without hurting his partner. I had to respect his decision,” Bhupathi observed.
The first ‘move’ for a reunion came from Mirnyi’s father, who happens to be his friend, philosopher and guide. “Since I was struggling with Eagle and looking for a new partner, I readily agreed,” informed Bhupathi.
The two of them will launch their second innings at the Estoril meet and play through the clay and grasscourt season till Wimbledon. “There’s no commitment for the hardcourt season yet, we’ll take a decision later.” That decision, of course, is a foregone conclusion — unless the Bhupathi-Mirnyi duo proves to be a super-flop.
Like Bhupathi and Eagle were. Finalists at their maiden tournament in January (Sydney), the Indo-Australian pair won just one match in four tournaments thereafter. “Our games are too similar, both of us return well… finishing off the points at the net was a problem. The chemistry just wasn’t there,” Bhupathi explained.
He then played with singles specialist Tim Henman for two weeks and lost early on both occasions, one of which was against Leander Paes and David Rikl. The Mirnyi-break couldn’t have come at a better time.
The slump in fortunes hasn’t hurt Bhupathi too much as he didn’t have big points to defend in the January-March period. “I am world No. 5 right now and will surely like to get back the No. 1 ranking. But it won’t be easy as there are several others working hard to reach that summit.”