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Sania will be in top-30 soon, says Bhupathi
- Doubles world No.5 fine with ATP’s stringent new anti-doping rules

Calcutta: Mahesh Bhupathi heaped praises on his Australian Open mixed doubles partner Sania Mirza, saying she would be in the top-30 in a few months.

In town on a whirlwind business trip — his first visit since winning his 11th Grand Slam title — Bhupathi said the mixed doubles triumph at the Australian Open has done a world of good to Sania’s confidence.

“She is getting into the groove as her performance in the Pattaya Open shows. I see her back in the top-30 within a few months. She can only do better from here,” Bhupathi said at a news conference on Friday. Sania is presently ranked 126.

Bhupathi, however, did not let go an opportunity to take a dig at the Union government’s rule that only Indian citizens are eligible to play for the country. “It has hit women’s tennis hard. Players like Sunitha Rao and Shikha Uberoi are sitting on the bench as we struggle in the Fed Cup. It’s ridiculous.”

Bhupathi, who is ranked fifth in doubles, however, has no problem with the Association of Tennis Professionals’ (ATP) new anti-doping rules.

The ATP, who signed the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) protocol last year, has made it mandatory for the top-50 players in singles and the top-10 in doubles to nominate one hour daily when they will be available for testing.

“We players brought it. Every year someone or the other is getting caught for doping. We have to collaborate and co-operate with the ATP to weed out dope cheats from the game,” Bhupathi was forthright when asked about his take.

For the record, Australian Open winner and world No. 1, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have termed the new doping rules Draconian.

Bhupathi, who termed this year’s Australian Open the ‘Indian Slam’ — apart from the mixed doubles title-triumph, India also found a new junior champion in Yuki Bhambri — said he was not game partnering a compatriot in Grand Slam men’s doubles for some time to come. “Rohan Bopanna has to rise in the rankings first before I partner him. I have to look at my seedings also,” he said.

Praising Chennai Open runner-up Somdev Dev Varman and Bhambri, the Bangalore-based tennis player said both would serve the country well. “Somdev runs a lot on the court and has a lot of confidence as he showed during the Chennai Open. He has the potential to make it to the top 50. After that it’s luck. Yuki is five years his junior and still a raw talent. He has to be nurtured well before he can be turned into a finished product,” he said.

Bhupathi said Bhambri is on the Davis Cup radar. “He should travel with the seniors to gain experience. That will help him in future. Sharing the dressing room with seniors like me and (Leander) Paes will teach him a lot.”

With the world economy fighting to come to terms with recession, the entrepreneur in Bhupathi is not overtly worried. “Sports and entertainment are not that badly hit,” he said.

Ruling himself out of the 2012 Olympics — he will be 38 then — Bhupathi said: “If me and Leander have to play five Olympics then something is really wrong with Indian tennis. I see Somdev and Yuki carrying on the legacy.”

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