Calcutta: Leander Paes' best efforts to get fit for the year's first Grand Slam was not good enough. The Indian ace waited till literally the eleventh hour (deadline for signing in) before pulling out of both the men's and mixed doubles of the Australian Open.
'I did everything to give myself a chance (of playing) but it hurts too much,' Paes informed The Telegraph from Melbourne on Tuesday evening.
Paes twisted his left ankle while playing in the Sydney International doubles quarter final. He and Nenad Zimonjic had to concede the match to Mahesh Bhupathi and Todd Woodbridge.
That was Thursday. The day after, the Indian Davis Cup captain flew to Melbourne and started working with Australian physio Andrea Bisaz in a desperate bid to get match-fit for the Open where he was due to play with Zimonjic and Martina Navratilova.
'I still have swelling and whenever I pivot or rotate on the ankle, the bone bruise is hurting a lot,' Paes explained.
Having won the 2003 mixed doubles crown at Melbourne Park with Navratilova and finished runner-up a year later, Paes was as excited as his legendary partner to try and regain their crown.
'Considering our record here, it's a tough call for me, but then what to do' I gave it my best shot and still came up short,' said a disappointed Paes.
The only time Paes seemed a trifle upbeat was while pointing out that he had organised partners for both Navratilova and Zimonjic. 'You can say I am happy that way'
Navratilova will be teaming up with Zimonjic in mixed doubles, while the Serbian's partner in men's doubles will be South African Wesley Moodie.
PTI adds from Melbourne: The men's doubles draw sees America's Bryan twins Bob and Mike seeded on top. Mark Knowles (Bahamas) and Daniel Nestor (Canada) are No. 2, followed by Bhupathi and Woodbridge.
Bhupathi and Woodbridge, who won the Sydney title last week, will open their campaign against Chris Guccione and Nathan Healey.
'We had three good tough matches in Sydney. I think it was ideal preparation,' Bhupathi said.
'I had a good year, winning five titles with different partners. Now I have a steady partner and am looking forward to a successful 2005,' he said.
In mixed doubles, the Indian will be partnered by Lisa Raymond, the experienced American who won the 1999 Wimbledon crown with Paes.