Journey of the first Indian to win a Grand Slam title – Mahesh Bhupathi

Jeremy Caroll

Mahesh Shrinivas Bhupathi, (born June 7, 1974, Chennai, India), Indian tennis player who was one of the sport’s most dominant doubles players. Bhupathi started playing tennis at an early age, spurred on by his father, who also served as his coach. He enjoyed a standout two-year career at the University of Mississippi, winning All-America honours in singles and doubles in 1995, and he started his professional tennis career the following year. In 1994 and 1995, he was India’s national champion, and from 1995 to 2011, he was a member of the Indian Davis Cup team. When he won the mixed doubles French Open with Japan’s Rika Hiraki in 1997, he became the first Indian to win a Grand Slam championship.In 1994, Bhupathi formed a successful doubles team with fellow countryman Leander Paes. Out of the eight tournament finals they reached in each year, the tandem won six Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) doubles titles in 1997 and 1998. Bhupathi and Paes reached the finals of all four Grand Slam tournaments in 1999, winning the French Open and Wimbledon but losing the Australian and United States Opens. The couple reached the top of the ATP doubles rankings that year, but personal issues between them quickly led to the end of their full-time partnership. In the years thereafter, the two have played together on other occasions, including in the French Open, which they won for the second time in 2001.
In the years 2002–04, Bhupathi won five ATP doubles titles, including a U.S. Open title with Belarus’s Max Mirnyi in 2002. However, his form deteriorated, and he was no longer consistently ranked in the top ten of the ATP doubles rankings.
Bhupathi’s mixed doubles Grand Slam career was even more successful. In the years 1999–2006, he won five mixed doubles Grand Slam titles with five different partners, including Mary Pierce of France, Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, and Martina Hingis of Switzerland. In doing so, he won titles in three further Grand Slam tournaments (along with his 1997 French Open triumph), giving him a career mixed doubles Grand Slam. While partnering with India’s Sania Mirza, he won the Australian Open (2009) and French Open (2012) mixed doubles championships. In 2016, Bhupathi announced his retirement from the game. The following year, he was named the Indian Davis Cup team’s non-playing captain.
He was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s highest civilian honour in 2001.

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