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'Divine Intervention'

'Divine Intervention'

'We have a common friend. He set us up together. I didn't have a partner last minute, and Mary doesn't normally play mixed. But, you know, I would say divine intervention, she wanted to play mixed this fortnight.'

AP

After the heady combine of Leander Paes and Martina Navratilova, Indian tennis fans now have another equally exciting partnership to celebrate -- Mahesh Bhupathi and Mary Pierce, the 2005 Wimbledon mixed doubles champions.

Bhupathi already has three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, besides four men's doubles crowns, but the Indian star would sure treat the latest addition to his overflowing cupboard as special.

The former world number one doubles player terms it as 'divine intervention' which brought him and the French Miss together.

"We have a common friend. He set us up together. I didn't have a partner last minute, and Mary doesn't normally play mixed. But, you know, I would say divine intervention, she wanted to play mixed this fortnight. He asked me. I said sure," was how Bhupathi described the circumstances that led to his joining hands with Pierce.

His eighth Grand Slam title would be all the more memorable for Bhupathi since his doubles pairing with the 16-time Grand Slam champion Todd Woodbridge failed to live up to their expectations and the Aussie legend announced his retirement from the game after the second round loss to eventual champions Stephen Huss and Wesley Moodie.

"Todd is a legend. It was very exciting for me to get a chance to play with him. I definitely enjoyed it a lot, especially since we had Mark Woodforde coaching us. It was a great four or five months," said Bhupathi on his association with Woodbridge, who had won nine titles at Wimbledon alone.

"But, yeah, it was a little disappointing because we were looking forward to ending on a great note here. It would have been nice to give him a 10th Wimbledon. But those guys (Stephen Huss and Wesley Moodie) won the tournament, so obviously it wasn't a bad loss."

But that did not stop him and Pierce from enjoying their time together on the famous lawns.

Pierce was all praise for her partner.

"I had a great time. I mean, that was the most fun I've ever had playing mixed doubles. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Mahesh as a player. He's done a lot of great things," said the US-based player for whom it was the first title of any kind at the All-England championships.

Bhupathi said "You know, we had a very tough draw. We had the defending champions early. All the big teams were in our half. I think one thing we just kept saying to each other before the match was, 'Let's have some fun'."

Pierce also had a great time in winning her maiden title at Wimbledon.

"Feels fantastic. So happy. I was really excited. I was just saying to Mahesh before we went to get our trophies, 'There's something special about this tournament, something special about winning here'," she said.

Bhupathi also talked about the "chemistry" that existed between him and Pierce and why two great doubles players don't always make for a winning combination.

"I guess it's just a matter of complementing each other to the highest level," said Bhupathi who won three Grand Slam titles with compatriot Leander Paes before they split.

"Todd, especially because he's won so many Grand Slams, he's won nine times here, I guess he's used to a certain chemistry -- the chemistry at the highest level.

"When you see Moodie and Huss, they played two tournaments together, they're Wimbledon champions. That chemistry you can't teach. It's probably built in between them.

"Tomorrow you probably put Moodie with me, we won't get past the first round. It just happens. It's a tough question to answer. You find that chemistry or you don't."

Bhupathi will play the rest of the season with Martin Damm of the Czech Republic.

"I have always believed that he has kind of underachieved because he hasn't had the right partners. He's a fabulous doubles player. So hopefully we'll give it a shot and get going soon."

PTI

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