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When Leander Paes snuck Mahesh Bhupathi into Wimbledon

Zee5's 'Break Point' on Indian tennis legends, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi is a docu-series full of anecdotes from the controversial duo.

Leander Paes with Mahesh Bhupathi

Leander Paes with Mahesh Bhupathi (left) 


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 2 Oct 2021 5:38 AM GMT

Indian tennis entered a whole different era when Leander Paes came along and Mahesh Bhupathi joined him soon after and together, the duo forged an enviable bromance that certified itself in their glory on court as they won Grand Slam's and stirred up a whole ruckus on the tennis tour. The Indian Express, as they were hailed, had arrived and perhaps, they were here to stay, is what the mass belief was, till things went awfully south. In Zee5's latest documentary series, Break Point, director duo Nitesh Tiwari and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari has explored the nuances of the relationship of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi in a no-holds-barred fashion and brought light on how this steaming bromance had to dwindle into a breakup.

Full of anecdotes and interesting quips, Break Point is a riveting watch and spilled a secret too many - one of the most scandalous of which is the instance when Leander Paes would sneak in Mahesh Bhupathi into the revered grounds of Wimbledon and even got him to stay with in his room during the course of the prestigious grass court Grand Slam.

The poster of Break Point (Source: Zee5)

While Leander Paes had an early start with tennis as far as the tour was concerned, Mahesh Bhupathi, despite being just one year younger to Paes, hogged the peripheries for a longer time before fully blooming. Leander Paes was already a star in the late 80s and early 90s, when he was still a teenager - but he had the swagger and the self-belief.

The origin story of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi

This story goes back to the famed 1990 Junior Wimbledon Championships when Paes was revving up his career on the international circuit. At that time, Mahesh Bhupathi was also there - not a part of the tournament but just hanging out there.

"When I walked into the stadium, I saw this heavy, plump Indian kid, who was hitting backhand after backhand, brilliant backhands..I stood there watching him play..and when our eyes met, we smiled to each other and as cliched as it might sound, I knew there was something there, I didn't know what, but I knew there was magic to be made," Leander Paes clearly recalled this iconic moment in Break Point.

For Mahesh, who was in tennis primarily because of his father's drive, Paes was a big name. "Leander was someone that every tennis player in India, including me, was looking up to when we were growing up. It sounds weird to say this because he is only a year older than me," he said with a chuckle in the docu series.

But the moment came. Words were exchanged and the sparks flew. "I was thinking about leaving when he (Leander Paes) said, 'Why don't you stay in my room?'," Mahesh recalled. Taken aback by this proposal, Bhupathi saw the opportunity and took it, overthinking can come later - a week at Wimbledon and the chance to share a room with Paes, sleep on his floor and enjoy the company, what more could a budding tennis star have wanted?

How did the 'sneaky' partnership begin?

Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes (Source: Getty)

Recognising the potential of magic in Mahesh, Leander had extended this invitation without a lot of thought. But the deed had to be done - Mahesh Bhupathi had to be snuck in. Up would walk Leander Paes first, being the only one with the badge to enter the strict Wimbledon campus between the two and enter the gates. Taking a swift left, Paes would strut for 30-40 steps very casually and then fling his badge to the other side of the wall where Mahesh Bhupathi, still not a part of the tournament, would be eagerly waiting for Paes to throw it towards him. Soon, Bhupathi would pick it up and be the next one to use the same badge and enter the grounds - and there it was, smoothly done, without Wimbledon folk getting wind of it, until now!

With 2 Grand Slam titles to their name, the pair of Lee-Hesh was a stunner on the court and much of it was due to their chemistry, which started way back in 1990, where the both of them were already covering for each other, like true partners. This first instance of camaraderie between the two was the sign that greater things were soon to come and so it did, taking the tennis world by storm and permanently changing the face of Indian tennis.

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