Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.
There is a great romance when the names are mentioned together. And, ironically, there are the elements of a Greek tragedy as well when these two names – seemingly inseparable but huge individuals in their own rights – surface in conversation.
The first is a 36-year-old with nine Grand Slam titles under his belt. The other is 35 and has 11 won Grand Slam titles. My mind goes back a decade when, playing as a unit, they made it to the final of all four Grand Slams and won the French Open and Wimbledon crowns.
Now, as they square up against one another in the final of the US Open men’s doubles final, I wish again they hadn’t broken their doubles partnership. My mind also goes back to their gut-wrenching split a couple of years later and the mess they got themselves to around the 2006 Asian Games, leaving a whole nation clueless about their break up.
But then I realise that they have perhaps gone on to discover greater heights themselves because of the split; they found additional motivation to do well for themselves and may have become better men in the process. It will be fascinating to see the two Indians across the net from one another for the first time in a Grand Slam men’s doubles final.
They are wonderful champions and superb ambassadors for India. With Somdev Dev Varman coming along now, India can continue to hope that its presence in the world stage but until he features in more Grand Slam events and the ATP tour consistently to be a top 100 player, one can only say: May Leander and Mahesh continue to age slowly.