‘I would love to be in Beijing’

MAHESH HARILAL

“Injuries are part and parcel of our career and we should know how to cope with them and how well to recover and get back into action with renewed vigour,” says Mahesh Bhupathi in this interview to Kalyan Ashok.

Possibly one of the worst fears of a player is being sidelined from the circuit with an injury. Mahesh Bhupathi came to terms with this in the latter part of the 2007 season, when a nagging lower back pain, during the US Open, put him out of business for nearly three months after he was forced to undergo a surgery in Melbourne. He returned home after rest and rehabilitation for nearly three weeks Down Under and is back on court at the Bhupathi Tennis Village.

Mahesh Bhupathi was finding his feet again and getting the feel of the action as he hit it out with Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna and Aizam Quereshi, the Pakistani Davis Cupper, in a special pre-season camp that he had arranged for a fortnight.

“Injuries are part and parcel of our career and we should know how to cope with them and how well to recover and get back into action with renewed vigour,” says the Indian doubles ace, who has 10 Grand Slam doubles titles under his belt.

The 2007 season was not too flattering with just two ATP Tour career wins — one with Nenad Zimonijic of Serbia at New Haven and another with Pavel Vizner of the Czech Republic in Canada. In Dubai, he made the final with another Czech specialist, Radek Stepanek. The season saw him play reasonably well with different partners including Vizner, Zimonijic and Stepanek. With Stepanek, he also reached the semi-finals of the French Open at Rolland Garros. Mahesh plans to play the 2008 season with another powerhouse in doubles, Mark N. Knowles of Bahamas. Mahesh hopes that the partnership would work, given their understanding on and off court. He plans to kick off the season with the Australian Open and targets the 2008 Olympics Games as “top priority”.

Mahesh Bhupathi spoke to` Sportstar during the course of a training session at the Tennis Village.

Excerpts:

On getting back to training: “It was not easy and though the back pain after the surgery is very negligible, the whole body has taken the load. Initially, the whole body hurt because the body had remained dormant for quite some time. I am putting everything into it. A lot of effort has gone into fitness training and getting back into shape and I guess I am recovering well enough and I can see the progress every day and I hope to be ready soon.”

On surgery: “It was not unavoidable. I was taking pain killers when I played my last few tournaments including the US Open and it was getting bad and the only choice was to opt for a surgery which I did. Though it put me out of action, I am glad I went through it.”

RAMESH SHARMA

On the season ahead: “Obviously what I am doing out here is for the coming season and I plan to start off with the Australian Open. Wish I could get to play a few warm up events but that would have been a bit of a strain and I would have got very little time to go into a Grand Slam pretty fresh. I plan to play the mixed doubles with Sania (Mirza) and men’s doubles with Mark Knowles. I am excited about that prospect. They are two great partners to team up with.”

On Mark Knowles: “I have played with Knowles long back. He is a good friend and we know each other’s game and hit off well off the court and I am sure we will do that on court too. He had a great season with Daniel Nestor and is now ranked No. 4. A couple of good wins should put us right up there as serious contenders.”

On playing again with Sania: “That’s another prospect I relish. She is in good form and is a tremendous competitor and it is good to have her with you on the court. But I don’t know her plans after the Australian Open, it all depends, how far she wants to go in doubles and her priority is and should be singles.”

On the big goal for 2008: “It has to be the Olympics. I would love to be there in Beijing but I am given to understand that I need to play a Davis Cup tie to be eligible. This I should clarify with the AITA and if it is indeed a must, then I surely will play at least one Davis Cup tie.”

On the camp: “It has always been there on my mind. Last year, we had to train in different places and I did a stint with Sania. I felt it would be nice to have Rohan, Sania and a few others here and start training under one roof. It was great and I really enjoyed doing it and I am sure both Rohan and Sania too share the feelings. We had our entire support staff at the Tennis Village, besides coach Scott Davidoff to help us. It went off well and I guess all of us are ready for the circuit.”