Acid test for Indian tennis stars

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Beijing, Aug 10 (UNI) Once considered to be formidable 'Indian Express', the estranged duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will have to overcome their egos, while Sania Mirza her injuries and lack of form as the tennis stars start their campaign in the Beijing Olympic Games here tomorrow.

There are expectations, that are not unrealistic, from Paes and Bhupathi, who still does not see eye-to-eye but have been forced to play together for the sake of the nation.

In fact it is going to be a day of reckoning for them when they take on French pair of Gael Monfils and Gilles Simons.

The two, in their hay days won three Grand Slams together and almost brought India an Olympic medal in Athens before Croatian pair of Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic spoiled their party. Four years later, they have another chance to write the history.

Paes is already keyed up and the Davis Cup captain, who tasted glory in Atlanta more than a decade back, says he is gunning for his second Olympic medal.

''I won the bronze in Atlanta (in singles) and now I want a medal in doubles,'' he told reporters at the Olympic Village.

''The defeat in Athens still hurts. It rankles me that we lost it when we were just two match points away from a win and a medal.

I want to right the wrong here,'' Paes said.

Like them, Sania too has a reputation to keep. In fact the Hyderabadi player has to prove her mettle early as she meets her Czech rival Iveta Benesova in the first round of the singles event.

It is a tough draw for Sania, whose all three previous attempts to beat the Czech have ended in a failure. But Olympic is a different ball game all together where umpteen unheralded Davids have slain many an ATP/WTA Goliaths.

Playing doubles with Sunitha Rao will definitely increase the workload for the Hyderabadi, but it also hands her an opportunity to show the stuff she is made of.

They have hardly played together but the scratch pair have to be at their best when they cross swords with French pair of Tatiana Golovin and Pauline Parmentier tomorrow.

Sania seems in a positive frame of mind. ''Everyone is here to put up their best effort and so would be I. I'm not thinking much about the field,'' Sania said.

UNI HSB RAR PM1725

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