HYDERABAD: Far from the maddening chaos of the city, the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy (SMTA) provided a perfect setting for a match featuring some of the biggest names of the game - Martina Navratilova, Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania.
The scenic greenery surrounding the academy perhaps triggered the old sparkle of the icons. Powerful serves, deft volleys and clever down-the-line forehand and backhand strokes flowed from the racquets. They had 97 Grand Slams titles between them, with 59-year-old Navratilova alone boasting 59. But what was eye-catching and interesting was Sania combining with Leander Paes. This is indeed a good omen before the 2016 Rio Olympics, where both could pair.
At the end of the match, which Leander-Sania won 6-2, 7-6 (7-3), both were non-committal about pairing in the Olympics. But 42-year-old Paes clearly said: “If we are in the final of the Olympics in that combination, I will be looking forward to.’’ This was the answer to whether there is a possibility of facing the Swiss combination of Martina Hingis and Roger Federer in the 2016 Olympics.
But Sania said it has not been decided (between Paes and Rohan Bopanna) yet. Paes said he had a great 2015. “However, my realistic target is to win 20 Grand Slams. That is something I am looking forward to. It is a long way and I have to do the hard work because winning a Grand Slam is a mammoth task. 2016 is an Olympic year and I would like to play for my country.’’
Paes lavished praise on the academy. “It is a quick and fast court. I like it.’’
On the exhibition tennis series, he said it is all about showing their repertoire. “All four of us showed the different shots that we play. I got direct orders from Madam (Sania) to hit the ball not push the ball.’’
Paes said playing with a legend like Martina is phenomenal. “Martina’s history with tennis is something you have written, heard and seen about. She is a phenomenal humanitarian too.’’