From the baseline to Bollywood: Indian tennis ace plays double agent

Story highlights

  • Mahesh Bhupathi has won 11 grand slam doubles titles in his tennis career
  • The 37-year-old also has his own sports management company Globosport
  • Bhupathi still plays doubles on the tour but is also agent to other tennis pros
  • Globosport manages a host of Indian sport stars as well as Bollywood actors

Mahesh Bhupathi is best known in tennis for his many successes as a doubles specialist, but now he's playing a new role -- that of a double agent.

The 37-year-old Indian veteran is still a professional on the ATP Tour, winning his latest doubles title in Dubai earlier this month, but also acts as manager to two of India's brightest tennis hopes through his company Globosport.

And with a host of Bollywood film stars also featuring in the firm's portfolio, Bhupathi has a ready-made route to success once his career on court comes to an end.

Bhupathi, who cites entrepreneurs such as Virgin boss Richard Branson and telecoms mogul Sunil Mittal as businessmen he looks up to, has recently made his screen debut in one of his company's latest projects.

His wife, Lara Dutta, is an award-winning actress and was named Miss Universe in 2000.

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When he does hang up his racket, the first player from India to win a grand slam title -- Bhupathi now has 11 all in doubles formats -- aims to mix the glitz and glamor of Bollywood with a plan to boost the prospects of burgeoning tennis talent in the country.

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"All of us growing up are aware what support it takes to build a tennis player," he told CNN's Open Court show. "I don't think there's any dearth of talent in India -- we've always had the best juniors in the world.

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"The big transition is how do you get from the juniors to the seniors, and that comes through financial support.

"In the West the kids have coaches, trainers and a pretty robust support staff, so it takes a lot of money.

"We have one kid we are supporting fulltime now. He's 14 years old and very talented, so hopefully we can make it to where we help more and more kids and eventually there will be a pipeline of players coming out of the country."

Outside of cricket, whose stars are worshiped in India, Bhupathi is one of the country's best known sporting figures.

He has a clean sweep of grand slam titles in the mixed doubles, claiming his first crown at the French Open in 1997 with Japanese partner Rika Hiraki, and can also boast four men's doubles titles to boot.

At January's Australian Open he partnered compatriot Rohan Bopanna -- with whom he recently won the Dubai Open title -- but they were knocked out in round three.

Yet it is his partnership with another Indian player, Leander Paes, that has reaped dividends. They have won three men's doubles titles together -- at the French Open in 1999 and 2001 as well as Wimbledon in 1999.

Even with a career that is still in full swing, Bhupathi also acts as agent to Sania Mirza -- the first Indian woman to break into the world's top 30 players -- and Somdev Devvarman, who reached a high of 62 in the men's rankings last year.

"For me it's two fulltime jobs so I've got to put in more work, but I really enjoy doing what I do," he explained. "Sania was one of our first clients, I think we signed her when she was 15.

"The tennis part of it is easy for me because I'm on the road, I'm networked into the tennis world, so doing her racket and apparel, this is very easy as I'm there on site.

"I'm aware tennis isn't going to last forever, and this going to be a smooth and natural transition now because Golobosport is eight years old."

But though Bollywood is beckoning, Bhupathi insists his eyes are still firmly fixed on court for now.


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