After some discussion between fans crowding the alleyways along the outer courts, the conclusion was “chicken korma”. Part of the amazement is Paes’s age – at 40 he’s practically a fossil in tennis terms since 30 means that you are entitled to senior citizen benefits.
Who knows if Paes likes chicken korma since no true blue Indian can stand what passes for Indian food in these islands of Great Britain! But it is also true that he is playing and very well. His hands at the net were on display on court and much discussed by everyone who stopped by or stood around to watch.
As Paes and Stepanek played against Daniel Bracciali and Jonathan Erlich in their first round match, across the alleyway on the neighbouring court was Mahesh Bhupathi, in his first round mixed doubles match with Daniela Hantuchova against Martin Knowles and Sabine Lisicki. The politics between the two former partners is now old hat but there is always some delicious irony in such situations...
As it happens, Paes and Stepanek who had started the match on Thursday winning the first set when the rain came, won the second set yesterday and then inexplicably went on to lose the third – or perhaps that is unfair because Bracciali and Erlich put up a fine fight for players for whom chicken korma is perhaps not “ghar ki murgi”. Paes-Stepanek went on to win the match. They will play Jamie Delgado and Matthew Ebden in the second round.
Bhupathi and Hantuchova unfortunately lost their match in the third set, having played an excellent first set. This means that the Indian contingent is down by one important possible winner. However, Bhupathi, Paes, Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza are all still up and running in the doubles section.
Mixed doubles hopes
And in the mixed doubles, Leander Paes (now playing with Saisai Jheng — not Jelena Jankovic), Mirza with Horia Tecau and Rohan Bopanna and Jie Zheng are still to play. These three are all seeded teams so get a first round bye unlike Bhupathi.
Given all the upsets of the tournament so far (several fans have given up since Roger Federer’s shocking Round Two exit, some to the extent of surrendering their tickets), the Indian flag is still flying metaphorically high in the doubles alley.
How the Indians fared yesterday
. Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek bt Daniele Bracciali and Jonathan Erlich 7-6 (6) 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-4
. Mahesh Bhupathi and Daniela Hantuchova lost to Mark Knowles and Sabine Lisicki 7-6 (2) 4-6 4-6