Australian open: Paes, Bhupathi to turn back the clock

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Old 17-Jan-2011
Australian open: Paes, Bhupathi to turn back the clock

Melbourne January 17:

Old Indian warhorses Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will play together on the circuit after nine years in the chase to complete a career Grand Slam by winning the Australian Open, beginning Monday.

The former World No.1 pair, have been seeded third here Sunday and play big serving and towering Croat Ivo Karlovic and Dusan Vemic of Serbia. Paes, 37, and Bhupathi,36, announced their return on the circuit last year in the bid to add the only Grand Slam title missing from their cabinet. The two showed age has slowed them down as they went on to win the Chennai Open title at home last week, tuning themselves for the big challenge at Melbourne Park.

Popularly known as the 'Indian Express', Paes and Bhupathi won three Grand Slams together-- Wimbledon (1999) and two French Open titles (1999, 2001). The two won the US Open with different partners. In 1999, Paes and Bhupathi became the first pair to reach the finals of all four Grand Slams in a calendar year for the first time since 1952. Incidentally, the two last played in a Grand Slam in the 2002 Australian Open and since then they have paired only to represent the country in the Davis Cup, the Asian Games and the Olympics.

Since their split, Paes won three more Grand Slam doubles titles --2006 US Open with Czech Martin Damm and 2009 French and US Open with another Czech player Lukas Dlouhy. In contrast, Bhupathi could add only one major doubles title, the 2002 US Open with Belarusian Max Mirnyi. Another Indian in the men's doubles, Rohan Bopanna, will also be a force to reckon with, with his Pakistani partner Aisam Ul Haq Qureshi. Nicknamed "Indo-Pak Express", they captured the imagination of thousands world over with their maiden Grand Slam final appearance at the US Open last year and their unique combination, the two coming from neighbouring countries which are constantly at loggerheads.

Bopanna and Qureshi since have been vocal about their ambition of being the top ranked pair and winning a Grand Slam. They have been seeded 10th here and play Brazilians Franco Ferreiro and Andre Sa in the first round.

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