Mahesh Bhupathi watched 'DDLJ' with Leander Paes 'multiple times', says films were a stress buster
Mumbai, Sep 29 (Sports news) Besides tennis, what bonded Mahesh Bhupathi with Leander Paes was their shared interests in food, music and movies, which were a stress buster for them.
Bhupathi, one half of the star tennis duo nicknamed the 'Indian Express', said they spent a lot of time off court watching Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol's 1995 blockbuster "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" particularly.
"We like the same food, music. We watched a lot of movies together as we were travelling day in and day out for tours. Movies were just like a stress buster for us, I remember we watched 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' multiple times.
"So, we'd watch English, Hindi movies, whatever we could, because we were working pretty hard so this was kind of an outlet for us. These are things that made the journey much easier," Bhupathi told PTI in a Zoom interview.
The tennis stars, who were the first doubles team from India to win at Wimbledon in 1999, have revisited their journey in the upcoming non-fiction series "Break Point".
Directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and Nitesh Tiwari, the ZEE5 non-fiction series explores the on-court partnership of Paes and Bhupathi and their off-court lives.
Bhupathi, 47, said a lot of filmmakers in the past had approached them to make a project revolving around the duo but nothing excited them till Ashwiny and Nitesh turned up.
"When I heard that Nitesh and Ashwiny were interested in talking to us, that was exciting because they're amazing storytellers. That's when I spoke to Leander and we got on a call with Nitesh and Ashwiny, in whom we found that comfort level to tell a story in the way we thought was best for people to consume it," he added.
For Bhupathi, the most special moment from his partnership with Paes is the win at Wimbledon.
"I think the pinnacle of our success was probably winning Wimbledon in 1999. That was a big dream for us and it came true. So that's definitely the highlight." He recalled meeting Paes in Colombo in 1991 and the two soon played their first tournament in 1994 in Jakarta.
"I was excited. We are very different when it comes to personalities. So dreaming is one thing, executing is another. So, for me it was very important to do the hard work and get it done, which we are very proud of," he said.
"Very quickly it became apparent that there was something special there because we were winning a lot of matches," he added.
Bhupathi described Paes (48) as "an unorthodox player", whom he admires.
"He is a great tennis player. He has the ability to kind of raise his game in big moments. He is a serve and volley specialist we don't get to see very often in tennis. Off the court, he is a very generous human being and we struck a friendship very quickly." Also called 'Lee-Hesh', the duo played together from 1994 to 2006 and reunited for their second stint from 2008 to 2011 and brought laurels to India but later they had a public fallout.
Reflecting on their split, Chennai-born Bhupathi said that time period was "tough" for them.
"It was very tough on both of us. Personally, for me I was going through a lot that year because I had surgery on my shoulder. And there were a lot of ifs and buts in my head, like will I be able to play tennis at a high level again? Will I be able to be successful? Because Leander was my first partner coming out of college and I never played with anybody else. So, it was a very tough time but we bounced back pretty well," he added.
During the difficult time, as a professional athlete, Bhupathi said he always kept himself motivated.
"We are always motivated because to achieve anything you have to set aside challenges. There will always be challenges small or big and we should always put in hard work day in and out to try and achieve what we want to." About "Break Point", the tennis player said the series will capture their 12-year journey.
"We have put it all out. We did it independently so we had the comfort level to put it all out there. We've made a big effort to keep it raw and real and hopefully it will be appreciated by everyone who watches it," he said.
The show will begin streaming on Friday.
Also Read : We created a brotherhood: Leander Paes on his successful partnership with Mahesh Bhupathi
News Source : PTI
38th Jr National Softball Championship to be held in Phagwara from Sep 26-30
Phagwara (Punjab), Sep 25 (Sports News) The 38th Junior National Softball Championship for boys and girls will be held in Phagwara from September 26-30 at the Lovely Professional University Campus.
Talking about the tournament, the President of Softball Association of India Neetal Narang thanked the sports ministry for giving extension to hold the pending Nationals till September 2021.
"We thank the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, GOI for giving the National Sports Federations' an extension to hold the Nationals till September 2021 for the events that could not be organised in the year 2020-21 due to the Covid pandemic," Narang said.
She also spoke about the potential of softball as a game in the country.
"Softball has huge potential to carry the legacy of our Olympic achievers and give us reasons to make all Indians proud. We are aspiring to leave no stone unturned to ensure that we not only qualify but also make our mark in the upcoming Asian Games 2022 & LA Olympics 2028," she added..
"Each step that SBAI is taking shall definitely bring us closer to our final destination, the LA 2028 Olympics," she signed off.
Also Read : We created a brotherhood: Leander Paes on his successful partnership with Mahesh Bhupathi
News Source : PTI
We created a brotherhood: Leander Paes on his successful partnership with Mahesh Bhupathi
Mumbai, Sep 24 (Sports News) Many years ago, Leander Paes acted on a whim when he asked Mahesh Bhupathi, "Would you like to win Wimbledon?" and the tennis star says what followed was a partnership that brought many trophies for India.
This "brotherhood" between the two Indian tennis icons, who were the first doubles team from the country to win at Wimbledon in 1999, is what the two tennis legends have revisited through ZEE5's non-fiction series "Break Point".
Paes said the audience will get to see a faithful representation of their journey through the series, directed by filmmaker couple Nitesh Tiwari and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari.
"We created a brotherhood. And through ‘Break Point’, you get to see the journey of two young Indian boys and how we conquered the world of tennis, won Wimbledon and became number one in the world," Paes told PTI in an interview.
Once the poster boys for the sport in the country, nicknamed the "Indian Express", Paes and Bhupathi played together from 1994 to 2006 and reunited for their second stint from 2008 to 2011.
Besides the Wimbledon championship that they won in 1999, Paes and Bhupathi also won two French Open titles in 1999 and 2001.
Through "Break Point", Paes said he re-lived all the games that he and Bhupathi played together including the several Grand Slams and the Olympics, while also taking note of the ups and downs of their relationship, among other things.
"One of my favourite memories is when I was 16-year-old playing in Sri Lanka, and Mahesh was 15, playing at the same Asian championships. So when I saw him, I had an intuition that we could win Wimbledon together and we could be number one in the world.
"So I watched him play for about 15 minutes and when he came off the court he had a big smile on his face and I shook his hand. I said, 'I am Leander.' and he said, 'I know and I have been following you'. And then I said, 'Thank you, but would you like to win Wimbledon?'" Paes said.
He recalled that Bhupathi was taken aback by what he said and started laughing.
"He said, 'You're crazy.' I said, 'I am crazy. Would you like to win Wimbledon?' And the rest is history," added Paes, who as a singles player had famously won the bronze medal in tennis at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
What Paes respects a lot about Bhupathi is that he believed in his dreams and worked hard for them.
"I think that what we've achieved together has created some world records as we are unbeaten in the Davis Cup in 24 matches, we played so many Olympics together.
"We've been number one in the world together. So I really respect the hard work that you put into believing in that dream." Their partnership, however, was marred by a public fallout in 2012 ahead of the London Olympics but Paes said they have put that past behind them and moved on in their lives.
He described the show as quite "real" and "raw".
"We are very true to telling the story of how we were pioneers at the time because there was no manual to teach us how to be the best in the world.
"And it also shows our mistakes, the downfalls that we had, the things that possibly we did wrong that we could have done better." Personally, for him, his win at Atlanta Olympics is a moment closer to his heart as it seemed like emulating his Olympian father Vece Paes.
The tennis star felt that one of the key reasons why they chose to narrate their own story through "Break Point" is that they wanted to share a true story.
"One of the reasons we didn't choose actors and told it directly from our own mouths and our own stories…and also we got our parents, siblings, friends and opponents that we played against, like the Bryan twins, the Woodies, Martina Hingis, Radek Stepanek, Mark Knowles.
"I'm really appreciative of all of them coming and taking part in ‘Break Point’," he said.
Praising Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and Nitesh Tiwari, Paes said the directors have gone beyond the game and tapped into the human aspect.
"Through all the episodes, they take you through a journey of human emotions. They show you how champions are built, how Champions also make mistakes and that they are human also.
"They show you how winning Wimbledon on one day might make you the king of the world but the next day you are vulnerable too,” he added.
Paes is grateful to the director duo, writer Piyush Gupta and the streaming platform ZEE5 for giving them the platform to narrate their story in multiple languages.
"It's been one phenomenal journey. We proved that if you work hard and if you believe in yourself, have the courage to believe in your dreams, you can be world champions, for sure.
"With this show, we can actually reach the masses to inspire them that if these two can win Wimbledon then you can also be a champion of the world in anything you want to." "Break Point" will stream on ZEE5 on October 1.
Also Read : Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Neeraj Chopra meets Abhinav Bindra
News Source : PTI
Davis Cup: Indian players need to give their all against Finland
Espoo (Finland), Sep 16 (Tennis news) India's singles players will need to back their talent with some killer instinct for the team to emerge victorious against a reasonably strong Finland in the Davis Cup World Group I tie, starting here on Friday.
Prajnesh Guneswaran and Ramkumar Ramanathan have the experience of playing the big matches.
They have rubbed shoulders with better players but it's time for them to move forward from playing mere close matches. They need to deliver that knockout punch that will take India to the next year's Qualifiers.
If Ramkumar can play the same way he competed against 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the previous tie against Croatia and does not miss the chances he gets, India will have a very good chance in the tie.
As the second-best ranked player from India, Ramkumar will be up against Finland's number one player Emil Ruusuvuori, who is placed 74 in the world, on the opening day of the tie.
If Ramkumar takes the court first and puts India on board, that will be a huge result for the visitors and take the pressure off Prajnesh (ranked 165) who will most likely compete against Otto Virtanen (ranked 419).
Prajnesh too gets close to wins with his talent but has the tendency of giving up advantageous positions, like the one against Borna Coric in the last tie against Croatia.
Maybe it's pressure of playing for the flag but the left-hander from Chennai insists it is not the case.
"Matches against good players are always close if I'm playing well. I have won matches against good players being in the lead and I have also lost matches being in the lead. That's just the way they go," Prajnesh told PTI.
"Matches which are closely fought can go either way. There is no pressure of playing for India that influences me...Sometimes there's more pressure, other times that's less.
"Again, just depends on how well I cope on that particular day," he added.
India considered the doubles point in their pocket till the time Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi competed together but now things have changed.
Rohan Bopanna (44) has immense experience of the big stage and he needs to use all of that to shepherd the team with Divij Sharan (86) since their opponents -- Henri Kontinen (ranked 46) and Harri Heliovaara (ranked 76) -- will be a tough nut to crack.
Bopanna and Sharan have played only one tie together, winning against Italy in March 2019.
Most of 40-year-old Bopanna's doubles wins have come either with either Paes or Saketh Myneni.
It remains to be seen if captain Rohit Rajpal fields Bopanna with Sharan or Myneni, who is the fifth member of the squad.
Kontinen has played three of the four Grand Slams this year with Edouard Roger-Vasselin but paired with Heliovaara at the US Open, probably to get ready for this tie.
They had a decent first round before losing in a close three-set match.
Non-playing captain Rohit Rajpal feels that the conditions are not entirely in the favour of the hosts since the low bounce of the courts will benefit the Indian players, who can play the chip-and-charge game to counter their rivals.
Also Read : Low bounce, not-so-fast court surprises Indian Davis Cup team in Finland
News Source : PTI
So near yet so par: India's love affair with fourth-place finish at Olympics continues with Aditi Ashok's heartbreak
New Delhi, Aug 7 (Olympic news) They say fourth is the worst place to finish in the Olympics. If last is the most embarrassing, fourth is the most painful. When one endures it by the narrowest of margins, and in a sport like golf, it can't get any worse.
Aditi Ashok experienced that excruciating pain on Saturday, and with it, post-independent India's tryst with fourth-place heartbreaks at sport's grandest stage continued, the run beginning way back in 1956.
"You don't want to join that club," Aditi said, but joined she did, after missing out on what would have been a landmark medal.
"But I guess I've joined it. But no, I think it's good, just even top 5 or top 10 at an Olympics is really good." In golfing parlance it was a case of 'so near and yet so par'.
A day before, the Indian women's hockey team went through exactly the same heartbreak, losing 3-4 to Great Britain in the bronze play-off.
With her mother carrying the bag, Aditi was a step away from adding one of the finest chapters to the country's Olympic history, but eventually ended up joining a list, which includes some of the country's greatest athletes, that no sportsperson wishes to be part of.
Here is a look at the instances when India came close but ended at just that.
#It all began at the 1956 Games in Melbourne, where the Indian football team made the semifinals after beating hosts Australia 4-2 in the quarterfinals, with Neville D'Souza becoming the first Asian to score a hat-trick at the Games.
By giving his team the lead, Neville looked like doing an encore in the last-four clash against Yugoslavia, who came back strongly in the second half to seal the contest in their favour.
In the bronze medal classification match, India could not recover from the blow they received against Yugoslavia, losing to Bulgaria 0-3, drawing to a close an eventful few days which the great P K Banerjee would often reminisce about.
#Four years later, at the 1960 Games in Rome, another heartbreak awaited India as the legendary Milkha Singh missed out on a bronze by the narrowest of margins.
Competing in the 400 metres final and touted as a medal contender, the 'Flying Sikh' fell short by a mere 1/10th of a second after slowing down to see his fellow competitors, an error that he would regret for the rest of his life.
This would go down as his life's worst memory after his parents were killed in the aftermath of the partition.
Milkha almost gave up the sport after that loss and it required a lot of persuasion for him to hit the track again and win two gold medals in the 1962 Asian Games.
#A little more than four decades before the players of current Indian women's hockey team endured the agony of narrowly missing out on a medal, their predecessors had gone though a similar experience when they lost their last match to erstwhile USSR 1-3 to finish behind Zimbabwe, Czechoslovakia and the Russians.
With top hockey nations such as the Netherlands, Australia and Great Britain boycotting the 1980 Moscow Games over the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan, the Indians had a great chance to finish on the podium in their their first attempt itself, but all they could manage was the fourth position.
#The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles brought back memories of Milkha in Rome when P T Usha missed the 400-metre hurdles bronze by 1/100th of a second, making it the closest-ever miss for an Indian athlete in any competition.
Known as the 'Payyoli Express', she ended up fourth behind Romania's Christina Cojocaru, but her heroic effort left a lasting impression and she became a household name.
The 400-metre hurdles was introduced for the first time in LA, raising hopes of a podium for the fancied Indian.
#After a long gap of 20 years, the curse of the fourth place finish returned to haunt the Indian contingent when the celebrated duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi missed out on the podium at the Athens Games in 2004.
Arguably India's greatest tennis doubles pair, Paes and Bhupathi missed out on a bronze medal after losing a marathon men's doubles match to Croatia's Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic 6-7 6-4 14-16 to end fourth.
Before that, the Indian pair went into semifinals as favourites but lost to the German duo of Nicholas Kiefer and Rainer Schuttler in straight sets 2-6 3-6.
At the same Games, Kunjarani Devi, who had inspired Tokyo Olympics silver-medallist Mirabai Chanu to take up the sport, finished fourth in women's 48 kg weightlifting competition, but she was not really in medal contention.
Disqualified in her final attempt to lift 112.5 kg in the clean and jerk category, Kunjarani finished with overall 190 points, 10 points behind bronze medallist Aree Wiratthaworn of Thailand.
#At London 2012, shooter Joydeep Karmakar experienced the terrible feeling of finishing a place behind the bronze medal winner.
Karmakar had finished seventh in the qualification round of men's 50-metre rifle prone event, and in the finals, he ended just 1.9 points behind the bronze medal winner, Rajmond Debevec of Slovenia.
Also read: Bajrang Punia wins Olympics Bronze; beats Kazakhstan’s Daulet Niyazbekov 8-0
#In 2016, when the Olympics was held in Rio de Janeiro, Dipa Karmakar became the first Indian woman gymnast to compete at the Games. After making the final of the women's vault event, Karmakar finished fourth overall with a score of 15.066 and missed the bronze medal by 0.150 points.
She introduced the sport to India and gave the message that one doesn't have to be born in the USA or Russia to become an excellent gymnast.
At the same Games, Abhinav Bindra's illustrious career was headed for a fairytale finish but a shooter of even his class was not spared of the curse of the fourth place finish, as he missed the bronze medal by a whisker, eight years after his historic gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.
News source: PTI
RPSG Indian Sports Honours to be virtual event in wake of COVID-19
Mumbai, Jul 21 (Sports news) The RPSG Indian Sports Honours organised by RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group and Virat Kohli, which was postponed last year due to COVID-19 pandemic, will be held virtually and aired on Star Sports on July 23.
The ISH Jury members, including eminent leaders and sporting champions like Dr. Sanjiv Goenka, Pullela Gopichand, Abhinav Bindra, Yogeshwar Dutt, Sardar Singh, Mahesh Bhupathi, PT Usha and Anjali Bhagwat will decide the winners of the Jury Honours.
Also read: Youth Nationals: 11 Haryana women boxers storm into semi-finals
The nominations in the categories were shortlisted by over 200 journalists from the Sports Journalists Federation of India (SJFI). The RPSG Indian Sports Honours Jury will select the final honourees from 38 finalists voted upon by SJFI members.
The Star Sports Popular Choice Honours will be decided through fans voting on Twitter on @sportshonours.
A segment of the ISH is dedicated to the Virat Kohli Foundation. Virat Kohli offers scholarships to the upcoming and deserving athletes through the Athlete Development Programme.
"I have always been pleasantly surprised and proud to see so much vigor and talent emerge from some of the smallest parts of our country. It truly encourages me to keep pushing myself harder and recognize this budding talent which will keep the Indian flag high at all sporting events," Kohli was quoted as saying in a media release.
Bunty Sajdeh, CEO, Cornerstone Sport said, "We have seen the number of participants grow over the years. This progress is a testimony that we are on the right path to acknowledge the talent prevalent in the country and aim to motivate them to keep pushing themselves to reach newer heights."
News source: PTI
Memoirs of a Brigadier: Chef de Mission's Mission Impossible
New Delhi, Jul 16 (Olympics news) Tackling egos, managing resources, enforcing discipline -- sounds difficult? Well, that's the life of a chef-de-mission at the Olympic Games.
The 2012 London edition was India's most successful Olympic outing with half a dozen medals and the contingent's chef-de-mission, Brig (Retd) P K Muralidharan Raja, spoke to PTI about the many back-room challenges he encountered in the job, for which he wasn't even the original choice, at least on record.
"The IOA secretary general Randhir Singh asked me a year before the Olympics, 'Brig Raja, how are you placed to be India's deputy chef-de-mission?' I said I am quite fine for it," Raja recalled.
That was also the time when Indian sport was reeling under the after-effects of the 2010 Commonwealth Games corruption scandal which had led to IOA President Suresh Kalmadi's removal and subsequent jailing along with some other IOA functionaries. V K Malhotra was at the helm of affairs for the national olympic body.
"(Hockey great) Ajit Pal Singh was to be the chef-de-mission. At the same time I was also told that Mr Ajit Pal is not too well. He always had a back ache and lot of other issues. So I was told that officially 'we are making you deputy chef-de-mission but in all probability you will have to take over as chef-de-mission'," the 65-year-old Raja said.
"One reason why they didn't announce my name as chef de mission was that there would have been an uproar in the IOA. Because chef-de-missions were usually people higher up in the hierarchy, like vice presidents or higher. I was an executive committee member at that time, comparatively junior," he revealed.
As it turned out, Ajit Pal was too unwell to make the trip to London, leaving Raja in charge. And the most challenging aspect of his job was to allot accommodation at the Games Village.
"I couldn't have allowed a situation where Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi ended up in the same room," Raja laughed referring to the infamous feud between the two reigning superstars of Indian tennis surrounding who would partner Sania Mirza at the Games.
Eventually, none of them could fetch a medal but there was enough drama before departure to put a soap opera to shame.
Sania had famously lambasted the duo as well as the national federation, saying that she had been used as a bait to placate Paes. Paes had demanded that she be his mixed doubles partner at the Games.
"So with the tennis team, I had to ensure two sets of rooms in which one could go to Mahesh and other to Leander. Had I just left it to the team and told them to divide, there would have been chaos," Raja said.
"People from IOA said why are you putting your head so much to it, just aise chhabi de do, baant denge... That would have led to total chaos. And the Organising Committee was not going to give you a single extra room," he added.
Once that was settled "peacefully", Raja's next challenge came pretty soon -- the "Olympic Mystery Woman" at the opening ceremony.
Clad in a red track suit, Madhura Nagendra walked beside India's flag-bearer Sushil Kumar, leaving the contingent dressed in formals dumbfounded and those watching at home bemused.
"Imagine after doing all the brain-storming to ensure that the requisite number of delegates walk during the ceremony, after so much difficulty, this girl Madhura jauntily walks in and takes away the limelight from us," he couldn't hide his amusement.
"At that time, everyone, including the athletes felt upset. They said we worked so hard to be here and this one girl has taken away all the limelight. She probably didn't realise, she took it as a joke," he said referring to the Bangalore woman who was part of a dance troupe at the ceremony.
"...she was just standing there. She thought 'arre India contingent, my country, let me just join them." The Indian contingent got an apology from the organisers after officially protesting against the security breach.
"But I was the one saddled with questions about how it happened and why it happened. But chalo, that storm also passed," he said.
Aside from this, Raja was also responsible for opening the Indian contingent's bank account in London, ensure documentation for the travelling doctors, liaison with the volunteers allotted to the country's delegation and was also in charge of the cars.
"They give you such fancy cars. And the volunteers could double up as your drivers if you cannot drive yourself. 10-12 vehicles were given to us. The number depends on the size of the contingent," he said.
And it is with managing these vehicles that Raja found his next big headache.
"After first two days, I noticed that vehicles were going missing for whole day altogether, I mean people would go shopping in these vehicles and then I started getting complaints from athletes, 'sir, humko training pe jaana hai, there is no vehicle'," he said.
"...training slots in Olympics are very specific, you cannot change them if you miss your slot," he added.
Raja recalled calling for a meeting of managers after that to get details of their local travel requirements and figure the optimum utilisation of the available vehicles.
"....there were people who wanted dedicated vehicles. One huge name with starry tantrums had her mother there as manager, she wanted a dedicated vehicle, somebody else also wanted that arrangement. Ultimately I said sorry, can't happen," he said.
Also read: IOA names Security Attache B K Sinha as Press Attache of India's Olympic contingent
"I told drivers, that if somebody goes for training for an hour, wait. Otherwise come back and go to pick them closer to the time they are done. Managers started saying 'ye to fauji type kar rahe ho aap'," he laughed again.
"Some IOA people, who were not even staying in Games village, wanted vehicles dedicated to them," he still sounded astonished.
After entertaining them a few times, Raja said he had to say, "I am sorry, it is meant for only athletes and coaches." "The responsibility is mine. They became unhappy with me but I said doesn't matter, I was anyway finishing my tenure as secretary of the boxing federation. So, I would rather do this job properly." Raja said with daily managers' meeting, it was no hassle for him to handle the logistics during the Games.
"Coordination is chef-de-mission's responsibility. In Army, we have this small notebook in which we keep noting down, what's to be done, what's done, all the points. That's how you do it here too," he said.
And what would he say to those wanting to take up the "lucrative" job in future Games? "If you take it seriously and sincerely, life of a chef-de-mission is a very hectic one." At the Tokyo Games, long-serving administrator B P Baishya will be the chef-de-mission with Prem Verma as his deputy.
News source: PTI
Former tennis players Paes-Bhupathi set to reunite for a web series
Mumbai, Jul 6 (Tennis news) Indian tennis great Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are set to reunite for a new web series, which will narrate interesting stories and share anecdotes from the duo's journey to stardom.
Paes and Bhupathi will be seen in a unique storytelling of their journey and relationship together, created by none other than award-winning husband-wife director duo of Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and Nitesh Tiwari.
Paes and Bhupathi were the first Indian pair to win at the Wimbledon in 1999. The speculation about their reunion started after Paes on Sunday posted a picture and wrote a note on Twitter on the 22nd anniversary of their first Wimbledon men's doubles title.
"As two young boys all we dreamt of was making our country proud! Tennis ballSeedlingTrophy @Maheshbhupathi #LeeHesh," Paes had tweeted, to which Bhpathi replied: "Hmmm ..That was special!! Do you think it's time to write another chapter? @Leander#LeeHesh." The pair, nicknamed the 'Indian Express', played together from 1994 to 2006 before re-uniting for a second stint from 2008 to 2011. They also had a public fallout but have put that behind them now.
Also read: Sajid Lodi named captain as India announce team for ITF World Junior Tennis Finals
News source: PTI
Rohan Bopanna, Divij Sharan miss cut for tennis men's doubles event at Tokyo Games
New Delhi, Jun 30 (Tennis news) In a setback to India's medal chances in the tennis event of Tokyo Olympics, Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan have missed the cut for men's doubles, which also rules out the country's presence in the mixed team competition, its best chance for a podium finish.
It was expected that with a low combined ranking of 113, Bopanna (38) and left-handed Sharan's (75) entry would depend only on large scale withdrawals.
"The ITF has confirmed that Bopanna and Divij could not be entered as a team in the men's doubles team. However, things might change till July 16 (if there are more withdrawals)," an AITA source told PTI.
When All India Tennis Association (AITA) Secretary General Anil Dhupar was contacted, he said he will be able to give a clear picture only when he has the complete entry list in his hands.
Despite some withdrawals, the cut for 22 teams out of 24 direct acceptances was as high as in mid-60s, according to sources but the final cut-off could not be confirmed.
Even if there are more withdrawals, it will be extremely difficult for India to have a team in men's doubles.
The priority would first be given to singles ranked players, then the singles-doubles combination and then the doubles-doubles ranking combination.
Since many top players are not part of the singles draw, the lower-ranked players, who consistently compete in doubles also, would not miss the chance to play two events at the Olympics.
Each player is allowed to be in two events.
As per rules, only those players can be a part of the mixed team event who are already in one of the main draws (either singles our doubles).
In India's case, it was imperative for Bopanna to be in men's doubles so that he can be paired with Sania Mirza, who is set to compete in her fourth Olympics with Ankita Raina in the women's doubles event.
Sania and Rohan came close to winning a bronze in 2016 but they lost the bronze play-off to Czech Republic's Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka in straight sets.
The limited number of opportunities in terms of tournaments due to the COVID-19 lockdown and travel restrictions made it tough for both Bopanna and Sharan to improve their rankings.
Bopanna was ranked 38th at the start of the year while Sharan's ranking only got worse after starting at number 63.
India have never missed out on fielding a men's doubles team at the Olympics ever since a young Leander Paes and Ramesh Krishnan competed at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
In editions after that, Paes was there mostly with Mahesh Bhupathi. In 2016 Paes and Bopanna competed and lost in the first round. News source: PTI
AITA nominates Ankita, Prajnesh for Arjuna; Balram, Piperno for Dhyanchand
In Sports news, New Delhi, Jun 29 Asian Games bronze medallists Ankita Raina and Prajnesh Gunneswaran have been nominated for the prestigious Arjuna award by the national tennis federation, which has also sent names of Balram Singh and Enrico Piperno for the Dhyanchand honour.
Ankita and Prajnesh both won singles bronze medals at the 2018 Asian Games held in Jakarta and Palembang.
Ankita is now country's best-ranked singles (182) and doubles (95) player and is set to make his Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games next month.
"This year we have nominated Ankita and Prajnesh for Arjuna while the names of very respected Balram sir and Enrico Piperno have been sent for life time achievement honour, Dhyanchand," an All Indian Tennis Association (AITA) official told PTI.
The 28-year-old Ankita has been India's key player in the Billie Jean King Cup team for the last three years.
She was nominated for the 'Arjuna' last year also but Asian Games gold medallist Divij Sharan succeeded in bagging the award.
Prajnesh is one of the most mature players in the current Indian generation. Had he not lost five crucial years to knee stress fractures, his career would have been an altogether different story.
The 31-year-old left-hander from Chennai, ranked 148 on the ATP charts, has played five Davis Cup ties for the country.
In the Lifetime achievement category, Balram Singh, who has a 50 year-long association with the Indian tennis, will vie for the honour along with Piperno, who coached the Davis Cup team between 1991-2001 for 27 consecutive ties.
The 73-year-old Balram, one of those extremely shy and non-controversial figures in Indian tennis, coached the Davis Cup teams in 1989 (South Korea) and 1990 (Japan).
He himself reached the junior Wimbledon and junior US Open quarterfinals in 1966.
That he has always preferred to stay away from the limelight and work in the background is evident from the fact that he has applied for an award for the first time.
He also established Balram Singh Trust to support talented junior players. Balram is a member of the senior selection committee and also headed it in the past.
His children -- Ashutosh Singh and Shalini Thakur -- have also played tennis at a good level. While Ashutosh won the Fenesta Nationals and was also a reserve player in the Davis Cup side, Shalini has played the Fed Cup.
The 59-year-old Piperno also has an impressive CV as he himself is an 1982 Asian Games silver medallist was coach of India's first Grand Slam winner Mahesh Bhupathi from 1997 to 2003 and also travelled for with legendary Leander Paes.
He was also coach of Indian Fed Cup team between 2000 and 2012 and the national women team at the Asian Games in in Busan (2002), Doha (2006) and Guangzhou (2010).
Last year former Davis Cup coach Nandan bal had won the Dhyanchand award. News Source: PTI