Mahesh Bhupathi feels his former men’s doubles partner and fellow India tennis great Leander Paes extend his international career for as long as he can. Paes has already announced 2020 will be the final year of his storied professional career, terming it as ‘The Last Roar’. Also Read - Two Coaches Test Positive for Coronavirus at National Women's Boxing Camp
Recently, the veteran finished runners-up at the Bengaluru Open in men’s doubles and Bhupathi says if he can manage to continue the form, adding another year to his career isn’t a far-fetched option. Also Read - Dutee Chand Gears up for World Relays as Indian Team sets Sight on Tokyo
“He’s (Paes) playing well still,” Bhupathi said on Saturday. “He made the final of Bengaluru. If he continues to play well for a few more months, may be he will play for another year. I think the way he’s playing he should play as long as he can,” Bhupathi told PTI about Paes, with whom he has won three of his four Grand Slam doubles titles.” Also Read - Japanese Women's Team Pulls out of Asian Wrestling
However, Bhupathi, winner of eight Grand Slam titles, isn’t sure if Paes will make a record eighth appearance at the Olympics to be organised in Tokyo later this year. “There are four five candidates in contention. We will have to wait and see till the cut off date (end of June),” he reckoned.
Bhupathi paints a gloomy picture for the future of Indian tennis saying lack of financial backing makes it difficult for the promising juniors to graduate to the next level.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the economics. I don’t think it makes sense for corporates, who are looking for gratification and Olympic glory,” he said. “In other disciplines like shooting, boxing there are multiple medals which is not there in tennis. That’s the reason tennis is not getting the backing. We have some great juniors. But unfortunately we don’t have a system and corporate’s support.”
Bhupathi was speaking during the centenary celebration of Calcutta South Club which saw the greats of Indian tennis stars coming together including the father-son duo of Ramanathan Krishnan-Ramesh Krishnan alongside Naresh Kumar, Anand Amritraj.
Anand Amritraj agreed with Bhupathi saying, “In U-14 categories, we are always in top three. In U-16 we fall back to top five-six. But in U-18s we are nowhere. The jump from junior to pro is never easy. Our grassroots have to be a lot bigger”
Former Wimbledon and US Open quarterfinalist Ramesh Krishnan, Ramesh Krishnan said, “We still rely on big cities to deliver talents, we are not able to penetrate the heartlands of the country. It’s important to keep them going up the ladder,” he said.
Naresh Kumar a former India Davis Cup captain says sponsorship plays a big role in today’s cut throat competition.
“Things have changed a lot now. You require a lot of commercial backing. Economics has to go up. Japan has the highest number of sponsorship. Unless you play with better players, and more often, you are not going to improve,” Naresh said.