The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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One bad game, rues Bhupathi

Calcutta: Mahesh Bhupathi sounded devastated, even hours after he and Max Mirnyi had lost Tuesday’s French Open men’s doubles quarter final to Leander Paes and David Rikl.

“For a set and three quarters, we played some of our best tennis. Then just one bad game changed it all,” Bhupathi told The Telegraph from Paris Wednesday.

“The momentum swung in the third set and even though most of the games were long, we had lost the initiative.”

His disappointment is understandable. Having dominated the claycourt season like no other team, Bhupathi and Mirnyi came a cropper in the tournament that matters most. That, too, against a man he chose to part ways with 15 months ago after a run of 22 titles including two at Roland Garros.

“A close call went against us when we were serving for the match at 5-4, 30-all in the second set… but that’s part of tennis. The bottomline is, it was an opportunity lost for another crack at a Grand Slam.

“But I am not going to harp over it and rather start focussing on Wimbledon straightaway. I still believe we are a major force in men’s doubles,” remarked Bhupathi who won his unfinished mixed doubles second-round match with Elena Likhovtseva later Tuesday evening.

Agencies add from Paris: Paes admitted it was one of the toughest tests of his career. “Both our partners knew how big the match was for us and both came out firing. There was a lot of aggro going on out there. All four of us lost serve one after the other.”

He added it was difficult to step out onto the Roland Garros and take on his former doubles partner.

“We have a lot of close friends in Paris and they were all out there — friends who had cheered for us together. When I met them afterwards I knew it from their look they didn’t know what to do.”

The Indian ace praised Rikl for lifting his morale at a crucial juncture in the second set.

“His mental maturity is great for the team. He kept looking at me and nudging me and saying ‘be patient it will come.’ And the momentum came back in our favour.”

Bhupathi didn’t rule out having a crack at the Olympic gold in the company of Paes in Athens next year.

“Both of us would like to go to the Olympics with the chance to win gold. But we’ll see, it’s better that no one puts pressure on us.”

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