Melbourne: All eyes will be on Leander Paes
and Mahesh Bhupathi as the `Indian Express` returns to Grand
Slam tournaments for the first time in nine years with an aim
to win that elusive Australian Open trophy even as Somdev
Devvarman and Sania Mirza will be the Indian faces in the
Lee-Hesh warmed up for the first Grand Slam of the season
with a victory at the Chennai Open but it won`t be easy for
them at the Australian Open -- starting tomorrow -- as the
competition will be fierce with some formidable pairs in the
The last Grand Slam they won together was French Open in
2001 and have not competed on the ATP Circuit together since
parting ways in 2002.
Incidentally, Bhupathi has not won a men`s doubles Grand
Slam title since winning US Open with Max Mirnyi in 2002.
Paes has been successful in adding three men`s titles
apart from winning three with Bhupathi. He won US Open in 2006
with Martin Damm and lifted two trophies (French Open in 2006
and US Open in 2009) with Luaks Dlouhy.
But Paes and Bhupathi played together for the nation in
Davis Cup and Commonwealth Games so chemistry is not a problem
but the effects of growing age have started to show.
Agility and sharpness plays a big role in the doubles
matches and the Indian duo will have to be in best form and
fitness if they wish to complete their Slam tally.
Rohan Bopanna is another Indian player to watch out for
who created waves last season by reaching the US Open finals
along with Pakistani partner Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi.
The pair is growing strong and gaining in confidence and
are capable of putting up a few upset results.
Picture does not look to rosy in the singles as Somdev
has been struggling to cope with the demanding Tour. Loss of
form is a big worry for him although his will and stamina
can`t be questioned.
But ever since his sensational show at Chennai Open in
2009, Somdev`s progress has just been okay and steady. He has
also got a tough opening round as he will face world number 51
Tommy Robredo of Spain.
It`s a huge task to tame the Spaniard and the road will
only get tougher even if Somdev manages to upset Robredo.
Sania did extremely well to come through the qualifiers
in the women`s singles but it will be an altogether different
ball game in the main draw.
Of late Sania has been doing well and would be keen to
improve on her Grand Slam performance. Her best performance
here was in 2005 and 2008 when she reached third round.
It would do a world of good to Sania`s confidence and
ranking if she is able to match those two years.