Indian Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi stated that compatriots Leander Paes and Sania Mirza are once in lifetime miracles and hoped that the sport of tennis received more support in India. Bhupathi also said that it’s been a learning experience to captain the Davis Cup team in the past two years.
Mahesh Bhupathi's claim to world fame was back in 1997 when he was the first Indian player to win the French Open in the mixed doubles category. Since then, he has forged a strong partnership with compatriot Leander Paes as the duo went on to win a host of tournaments in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The Lee-Hesh combo became the first doubles team to reach the finals of all four Grand Slams, the first time such a feat has been achieved in the open era in modern tennis.
Post his retirement, Bhupathi was appointed as India's next non-playing Davis Cup captain and took over the reins from Anand Amritraj in February 2017. Now aged 44, Bhupathi spoke about how the sport has grown over the years in India mentioning that India still needed to work on developing young talent despite the success achieved by the likes of Sania Mirza and Leander Paes amongst others.
"Miracles don’t happen every day, man. China has a Grand Slam champion. And China spends a minimum 50 million dollars on tennis. And in Japan, the chairman of Sony pumps in tens of millions of dollars into tennis. In India, we’re struggling to get tens of lakhs into the game. Lee-Hesh was a miracle, Sania Mirza was a miracle…and miracles happen every 30-40 years.
"The problem in our country is we don’t have enough experts to teach the kids physical fitness at a young age. If you set the base when you’re between 12 and 14, then you can be a world-class athlete," Bhupathi said in an interview to TOI.
Bhupathi, who will now complete two years as captain of the Indian Davis Cup team in month’s time, also said that despite all the ups and downs, its been a pleasant experience to guide a young Indian team in the Davis Cup over the last couple of years.
"It’s a unique situation because a lot of the players have been my colleagues and doubles partners. We have had some amazing ties. The most special has to be the Davis Cup tie against China. We were two points away from losing, but we came back and won the tie. The debut as Davis Cup captain in Bangalore (India vs. Uzbekistan) was memorable too since it’s my hometown. Then the tie against Canada… we were playing a big team outside
"I thought it was an excellent opportunity to work with a batch of 12 players. When Leander and I were playing, we were essentially a two-man team. Prior to that Leander and Ramesh (Krishnan) were a two-man army. Obviously, my dream was to reach the World Group and stay there. That said, tennis is a tough sport. People need to understand the depth of competition we’re up against," Bhupathi added.
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