On the heels of “Sundays With Purav”, “Chai With Raja” talks about topics more privy to Indian Tennis. “Chai With Raja” is a 7 part series coming your way to make your next seven Sundays exciting

Read the first three episodes here –
Episode 1 – Davis Cup
Episode 2 – Roberto Bautista Agut
Episode 3Coronavirus

Since this episode is about our legendary Indian Express, I thought I would ask a few of my favourite people from the western world about the greatness and the flaws of this team. In this episode, these tennis icons are referring solely to men’s doubles and it is purely a fun opinion. These gentlemen have played with and against Mahesh and Leander, and have known them on and off court for several years. I was twelve years old when they started playing, so I thought I would use my friends to help me out here.

My reason for this blog is to see if we can find any patterns in what their peers thought and for everyone to get to know a little more about these two legends of Indian sport. They were certainly one of the greatest doubles teams in tennis.

I asked FIVE QUESTIONS to each one of their peers. And to make it difficult I also asked them for ONE WORD ANSWERS only:-

My QUESTIONS were :-

1) What made Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes one of the greatest teams?
2) Mahesh in a nutshell?
3) Leander in a nutshell?
4) How many MORE grand slams would they have won if they played together throughout?
5) Why did they not play with each other?

Here are the ANSWERS:-

Ken Skupski – One of the most consistent doubles top 50 players in the last decade and one of the best people I know :-

1) What made them the greatest team – Desire
2) Mahesh in a nutshell – Disciplined
3) Leander in a nutshell – Ego
4) How many MORE Grand Slams they could have won together – 7 more
5) Why they broke up – Trust

Jonathan Erlich – An ATP Tour veteran – US Open champion – Nobody knows our Indian Express better than this legend :-

1) What made them the greatest team – Lethal Combination
2) Mahesh in a nutshell – Quiet
3) Leander in a nutshell – Charismatic
4) How many MORE Grand Slams they could have won together – 7 more
5) Why they broke up – Ego

Max Mirnyi – The beast needs no introduction – Olympic gold medalist and one of my heroes in tennis – Several time Grand Slam champion and won the UO Open with Mahesh :-

1) What made them the greatest team – Opposite Styles
2) Mahesh in a nutshell – Easy Going
3) Leander in a nutshell – Intense
4) How many MORE Grand Slams they could have won together – 17 more (wowww!)
5) Why they broke up – Fame/Pressure

Max Mirnyi (L) and Mahesh Bhupathi
Mirnyi and Bhupathi after winning the 2002 US Open title

Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi – The “Stop War Start Tennis: Pakistani legend and a good friend to the Indian Express for numerous years having played against and with both of them :-

1) What made them the greatest team – Passion
2) Mahesh in a nutshell – Opportunist
3) Leander in a nutshell – Belief
4) How many MORE Grand Slams they could have won together – 3 more
5) Why they broke up – Personal Differences/Ego

Jean Julien Rojer- Known as The mastermind of doubles – 2 time Grand slam champion-An overall genius:-

1) What made them the greatest team – Intensity
2) Mahesh in a nutshell – Solid
3) Leander in a nutshell – Eccentric
4) How many MORE Grand Slams they could have won together – 3 more
5) Why they broke up – Ego

Freddie Nielsen – One of the best ball strikers and most talented people in tennis today – Wimbledon champion and a super humble guy :-

1) What made them the greatest team – Tennis Harmony
2) Mahesh in a nutshell – Desire
3) Leander in a nutshell – Belief
4) How many MORE Grand Slams they could have won together – 7 more
5) Why they broke up – Ego

Prakash Amritraj – To all Indians he needs no introduction – Just look at his body and you will know this guy is BIG time :-

1) What made them the greatest team – Passion
2) Mahesh in a nutshell – Homie
3) Leander in a nutshell – Self-confidence
4) How many MORE Grand Slams they could have won together – 4 more
5) Why they broke up – Ego

Robbie Koenig – The voice of Men’s Tennis and one of the most knowledgeable people in Tennis today :-

1) What made them the greatest team – Clutch
2) Mahesh in a nutshell – Classy
3) Leander in a nutshell – Showman
4) How many MORE Grand Slams they could have won together – 2 more
5) Why they broke up – Differences (hmmmm!)

I hope this answers some of our questions and forms some trends. All I feel is great sadness as it’s safe to say that India, as a whole, lost out on multiple Grand Slams in an era where we might have dominated.

I would again like to end on a positive note though, and the next time someone asks our Indian Tennis fraternity on what really happened between Mahesh and Leander – I want all of us to hold our heads up high and say this happened –
World Number 1, 3 grand slam titles, 24 straight Davis Cup victories, 26 ATP doubles titles and 303 ATP match wins.

They are the greatest Indian team our nation has certainly ever seen and probably will ever see. Thank you for all the laurels.

Stay safe and healthy
Impossible is nothing!

Thank you,
Purav Raja

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