Some celebrity feuds turn into a dose of entertainment for the viewers, but when you connect with the protagonists of those discords, you are heartbroken. And Indian tennis stars Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes are good examples. It has been more than two decades since the friendship between the two men, who wrote the history of the Indian sports arena and left unforgettable memories for sports fans, soured. Imagine, even Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan buried the hatchet after five years.
Dubbed “the Indian Express”, tennis legends had a spinoff in 2000. But, Paes and Bhupathi never made it clear what was wrong with them. As much as they celebrated their successes with their well-coordinated breasts, they also kept their differences as private as possible. But, now it looks like Indian tennis posters are set to unveil their secrets in ZEE5’s upcoming web series, Break Point. Directed by filmmaker couple Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and Nitesh Tiwari, the seven-part web series will begin airing on October 1.
But this is not the first time Indian tennis fans will learn the story of Paes and Bhupathi’s breakup. Much has already been written about one of the most infamous outbreaks in tennis history. Lee-Hesh, who has already won 16 titles together, qualified for the final of four successive Grand Slam tournaments in one year (1999), winning Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and became the world No.1, has ceased to agree.
“The close friends who understood each other so well suddenly found a cacophony of conflicting egos too much to bear. Paes blamed his former coach – now in the Bhupathi corner – Enrico Piperno – for the breakup. Bhupathi cited irreconcilable differences. There has been talk of “woman’s problems” between the two, “reads an excerpt from author Anindya Dutta’s book, Advantage India: The Story of Indian Tennis.
Despite their differences off the pitch, Lee-Hesh continued to play Davis Cup games until 2010. They attempted to get back together in 2011 as well. Although they managed to record ATP titles in their name, they were unable to win a Grand Slam. About getting together, Paes told the Wall Street Journal in 2011, “Time is the best healer. We both take responsibility for everything that happened in the past, and now we’re much more mature about it. “
But it seems these were just words that meant nothing as the damage was irreparable. In 2012, Mahesh Bhupathi threatened to boycott the Olympics if he was forced to play with Leander Paes by the All India Tennis Association (IATA) and called his former friend Paes a “stab in the back”.
“The ship that Léandre and I embarked on sailed a long time ago. We parted ways four times, went to the Olympics four times, and came back empty-handed. He (Paes) stabbed me publicly and privately in the back in November of last year and things cannot be reversed. We don’t talk and have no camaraderie. For us, going back to the Olympics (together) is the worst possible in the interest of the country, ”Bhupathi said in a PTI report released in 2012.
Bhupathi also went out in public to clarify that his feud with Paes is not “personal”. In a Facebook post he wrote in 2017 after Paes walked away from a Davis Cup game in Chandigarh, he shared: “When I first came onto the Davis Cup scene in 1994, I was a Leander fan and I was delighted to see him play Wayne Ferreira who was 10 years old in the world. He demolished Ferreira in straight sets. I’m becoming more than a fan. However, things changed quickly when our captain, Mr Jaideep Mukerjea and coach Enrico Piperno were strong in the team at the end of 1999 because he had heard a rumor that they were upset, he had not come for the game against Italy but was in great shape playing in Chennai opened the following week, that should have been the first red flag.
He added: “If I had to forget for five minutes, all the times he took his place on the team for granted and showed up late for the Davis Cup or the Olympics, or not complying with the requests from the team on uniform or outfit, or openly telling the captain or management that things need to fall into place the way he needs them, his departure from Bangalore on Saturday in the middle of our tie was the final highlight in the coffin.
Despite all of these nasty stories, fans of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes want them to leave the past behind. Tennis fans or not, the country will probably want to remember its two sporting heroes for the delightful moments they created when they played doubles together.