Melbourne: India’s hopes at the Australian Open beginning on Monday rest on the brand new doubles pair, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, and Leander Paes, who will be teaming up with Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek.

Paes, having won the doubles title at the Chennai Open with Serb Janko Tipsarevic, will go into the Open with high confidence.

Bhupathi will be looking to win his maiden men’s doubles title with his new partner, having missed out thrice as losing finalist — with Paes in 1999 and 2011 and with Mark Knowles of Bahamasin 2009.

“It is my 18th season so it is not something new. Beginning of every season is always exciting because in two weeks you are in a Grand Slam. So I am heading to Melbourne and I hope to kick it off well,” Bhupathi said.

Bhupathi, who won the Australian Open mixed doubles title with Martina Hingis in 2006 and in 2008 with Sania said he and Bopanna were working extremely hard to get the chemistry going.

“We are just practicing as much as we can and playing as much as one can with their partner,” he added.
The Indian tennis veteran teamed up with young Bopanna for the first time in Chennai after splitting with Paes yet another time last year. The pair lost in the semi-finals to Irsrael’s Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich.
Bhupathi and Sania Mirza will pair-up to launch their title bid in the mixed doubles. Bhupathi is hopeful that Sania will be fully fit for the tournament.

“She has come back from a surgery again, and it is always hard. She is fine. I don’t know how she is feeling, but I know she is a little injured. So we have to wait and see how it pans out.”

Sania Mirza, who has dropped out of the top 100 in the WTA rankings will be the lone Indian representative in the single’s competition with World No. 86 Somdev Devvarman pulling out of the tournament with a shoulder injury.

Sania ranked 105, returns to the place where she first made a name for herself, reaching the third round of the 2005 edition being beaten by eventual winner Serena Williams after a valiant fight.

The 25-year-old will have her work cut out as she faces Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, ranked 48, in the first round. The two have not played on the circuit so far.

(Agencies)