Tennis has given me everything I have today: Mahesh Bhupathi

He was in Calcutta for the inauguration of Premjit Lall Invitational 2018 partnered by The Telegraph

By Saionee Chakraborty
  • Published 26.12.18, 7:48 PM
  • Updated 27.12.18, 8:40 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Mahesh Bhupathi at the Jaidip Mukerjea Tennis Academy. Rashbehari Das

One half of the famous Lee-Hesh jodi (his ‘Hesh’ to Leander Paes’s Lee); one of the poster boys of Indian tennis... the dapper Mahesh Bhupathi, who has a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles and Grand Slam doubles wins in his kitty, was in town for the inauguration of Premjit Lall Invitational 2018 partnered by The Telegraph. t2 caught up with the former tennis player at Jaidip Mukerjea Tennis Academy’s studio apartment in Salt Lake. His winning mantra? “Enjoying all kinds of challenges.” 

Saionee Chakraborty:

Mahesh, nothing like the sound of the ball on the racquet, right?

Mahesh Bhupathi:

I love playing. It’s just that the injuries that come with playing for me every time, it is not worth it. When you are practising and competing, you are obviously training to keep the body in shape. Now, I am not. When I go out and do a good session, it takes me four days to recover. (Laughs) I wish I could play some more. 

Saionee Chakraborty:

How much tennis do you play for leisure?

Mahesh Bhupathi:

 Zero! Not even once a month.

Saionee Chakraborty:

Don’t you miss it?

Mahesh Bhupathi:

I miss competing. I don’t miss the practice and the recovery. (Laughs) I was a professional tennis player, so playing recreationally doesn’t make sense. If I need to do fitness, I’d go to the gym or play squash or do something I have never done in my life. That’s more fun. 

Saionee Chakraborty:

What did you imagine life without tennis would be like and what is it like now? 

Mahesh Bhupathi:

Life is never without tennis for me. Tennis has given me everything I have today. I continue to be the Davis Cup captain, have my tennis academies, attend events like this to support various tennis initiatives. My whole life revolves around tennis. It’s in the blood. 

Saionee Chakraborty:

Who did you grow up watching?

Mahesh Bhupathi:

I actually came in the generation of (Vijay) Amritraj-(Ramesh) Krishnan... when I was growing up and following tennis. My dad took me to Wimbledon for the first time when I was 11 or 12. I watched them both play singles there at Wimbledon. My dad introduced me to tennis. 

Saionee Chakraborty:

You say sports has taught you a lot…

Mahesh Bhupathi:

What would I do if not tennis… I would never know. I have been playing since I was three. Sports has taught me that discipline is required. Even today, I am up at 6.25am every day. Also, hard work. Nothing comes easy in life. These are the two attributes that hopefully I will be able to pass on to my daughter (Saira). 

Saionee Chakraborty:

Was being the face of Indian tennis a pressure?

Mahesh Bhupathi:

I don’t think you ever think about it as pressure. While growing up, you always dream of playing these big tournaments and winning them. Pressure comes with anything you do. If you are the CEO of a company, there is the pressure to deliver numbers. If you are running a petrol station, you have to sell a certain amount of gas a day. So pressure is a part of life. But when you are doing something you love, it is a unique thing and that’s what I was able to do. 

Saionee Chakraborty:

Who are you watching now?

Mahesh Bhupathi:

In the boys, there are two — Sumit Nagal and Sasi Kumar Mukund. In the girls, Karman Kaur Thandi has broken through. She is 206 in the world now. They would hopefully break through in the top 100 in the next 24 months.