They might have shared a frosty relationship leading to a break-up of their doubles partnership but Mahesh Bhupathi today said that he ran after fellow Indian tennis great Leander Paes to be a part of the inaugural IPTL season last year before taking him on board this year.
“I really tried hard to get him last year but he had already signed (for Champions Tennis League) for some other. He is an entertainer and I felt the format of IPTL suits Leander,” Bhupathi said while announcing Maruti Suzuki’s crossover car Nexa’s association with with Indian Aces, one of the IPTL teams.
“We went out early this year to get Leander so that we do not lose him out this time. The Indian team owners wanted Sania Mirza and Leander to be in the team and so they got them,” Bhupathi, the Founder and Managing Director of IPTL, said with Sania beside him at the build-up press conference for the IPTL.
Paes, who played in the Vijay Amritraj-owned CTL last year, has signed with IPTL side Japan Warriors this year.
Sania said she was looking ahead to a good show at the IPTL having had a “dream season” which saw her grab 10 titles.
“It has been a dream season, not been beaten since August and having won 10 titles. So looking forward and hope to carry the form in the IPTL. I think IPTL will be bigger this year than last season,” she said.
Asked about her plans next year and for Rio Olympics, she said, “Lots of things to worry about the Olympics. It is a few weeks left in the season and when the year ends, I will start thinking about next season.”
Bhupathi said that last season’s experience has made him and the IPTL management wiser and he hoped the tournament to do better this year.
“The experience of last year will make the IPTL better this year. Honestly, we did not do any planning about audience, how many spectators watched etc. With the bits and pieces of experience from last year, I hope we can do better this year and IPTL will be bigger in season two,” he said.
Asked if there is any plan to take the matches of Indian Aces to other cities in the country, he said, “We have to see. There is only one IPTL team in the country and Delhi has the biggest tennis stadium in the country and so as of now, the matches are held here. Every option will be explored in future.