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Bhupathi still hungry for more

Kalyan Ashok

The ace hopes to click with Knowles & Sania again

— Photo: AFP

READY FOR ACTION: India’s star doubles player Mahesh Bhupathi is aiming to come good in 2009 and, if he partners Sania Mirza, go one better in mixed doubles at the Australian Open.

BANGALORE: It has been a long journey for Mahesh Bhupathi.

With 10 Grand Slam doubles (men’s and mixed doubles) titles under his belt, one would expect the 34-year-old Indian ace to slow down with advancing years and injuries. But to his credit, Bhupathi has not shown signs of slowing down.

He is hungry for more, now that he has clicked in a big way with his new partner, Mark Knowles of Bahamas in the 2008 season.

The pair is ranked No.3 in the world with Bhupathi at No. 6 in the individual doubles ranking and Knowles at No. 7.

Fulfilling season

Their best Grand Slam performance was being the semifinalists at the last Australian Open. They also won three Tour titles and made three Masters final.

Considering the fact that Bhupathi had come back from an injury and back surgery, it was a fulfilling season.

In a chat with the The Hindu, Bhupathi vowed to improve on the performance. “It was a touch and go kind of situation when I came back from the injury and it was a tough year long year. Given all that, I guess Mark and I did pretty well, especially at the Australian Open, though we were pretty unlucky in other Grand Slams.

“We had to cope with injuries before French and the U.S. Open. Knowles’ wife had a baby before Wimbledon and we could not prepare for it,” said Bhupathi.

Bhupathi said that they were good enough for another big season.

“We are hungry enough and both of us want to try as hard as we could. Though we are very much against the young guns on the tour, we count on our experience to do the trick.

“We get into our matches with at least three plans in place and try to shift gears accordingly. We hope to stay fit and healthy during the big ones.”

Bhupathi was pleased with the way his partnership with Knowles was working.

“Both of us are in the same stage of our careers and Knowles has been a good friend on the tour for 12 years. That chemistry translated itself on the court when we came together,” said Bhupathi.

Bhupathi, who begins the 2009 season with Knowles at the Chennai Open, will later move on to Down Under to play at Sydney and then the Australian Open.

In the Australian Open, he also plans to partner Sania Mirza, with whom he made the final this year. Sania is back in serious training with Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna at the ‘Tennis Village’ here after a four month lay-off following an injury.

Bhupathi felt that she was in good nick. “She is definitely back and hitting strongly as ever and I hope everything goes well for her this season. She had a great start so did I after the camp here last year. I hope it happens again,” he said.

In good position

On Davis Cup, he felt that India was in a good position. “I will surely playing. We have three guys competing for two singles slots and that’s a good sign. And doubles has always been a plus for us,” said Bhupathi.

When asked about retirement plans, Bhupathi broke into a big smile. “Five year ago, if you had asked me whether I would play in 2009, I would have said no.

“Now, I will keep playing as long I am enjoying the game. When I feel I cannot keep competing with the best, that’s when I will call it a day.”

“I am not like Martina Navratilova or Martina Hingis to retire and come back and play at the top again. When it’s over, it will be over forever”, signed off the champion.

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