| touch of support: A file picture of Leander and Mahesh
Calcutta, Aug. 22: He had been dialing daily to check on the progress of Leander Paes at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, but till Wednesday, Mahesh Bhupathi wasn’t sure whether he would hop over from New York to Orlando to see his one-time partner and close buddy in person.
Overnight, those doubts evaporated and the junior partner of the once-irrepressible Indian Express did catch the two-and-a-half-hour flight on Thursday morning.
Mahesh was back at his New York base before nightfall, after having spent a “quality six hours” with the ailing Leander with whom he had lunch.
It wasn’t a pre-planned trip. So Leander was surprised to see Mahesh, with whom he shares 22 professional titles, including three Grand Slams, walk into the hospital.
“It was great to see him in very high spirits.... One could hardly make out he is carrying a cyst in the brain,” Mahesh said from his New York flat. The Telegraph had caught up with him at breakfast time on Friday, shortly before he was to leave for the gym and morning practice. Mahesh and Max Mirnyi will be launching the defence of their US Open doubles crown in five days.
“He (Leander) just said there were still a lot of tests being conducted and, for the only time, sounded a trifle low while observing that no diagnosis is likely before all reports come in by Tuesday.”
Tennis didn’t crop up. “I know how much of a blow it is to a player to be in bed with a Grand Slam knocking on the door…. I deliberately avoided any reference to tennis, that can wait,” said the 29-year-old Bangalorean.
“He is on medication but otherwise normal. Tumour seems to have been ruled out. Still one has to wait till the cause of the cyst-formation is detected,” Mahesh said.
The high point of his six-hour stay at the hospital was having lunch with Leander and some of his close friends, including actress Mahima Chaudhary. “He has a nice suite and it was great fun at lunch time, just like normal times,” Mahesh said.
A stream of visitors has been flocking Leander’s suite to wish him a quick recovery. “I didn’t know he had so many friends in Orlando. They are all doing their best to keep his chin up,” Mahesh said.
He has done his bit, too, by visiting the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Quite a touching gesture, considering the bad blood which has flowed through the relationship ever since they scaled new heights in men’s doubles four years ago.
A television channel reported tonight that Martina Navratilova, who partnered Leander to win Wimbledon and the Australian Open this year, also called on the ailing player.