Skip to main content

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

By Chris Murphy, CNN
updated 11:31 AM EDT, Thu March 15, 2012
Tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi is a prominent figure on the Bollywood scene. His company represents several film stars and also produces its own features. His wife is Bollywood actress Lara Dutta, right.
Tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi is a prominent figure on the Bollywood scene. His company represents several film stars and also produces its own features. His wife is Bollywood actress Lara Dutta, right.
HIDE CAPTION
Baseline to Bollywood
Double agent
India's doubles dream team
Flying solo
History maker
Flushed with success
Indian gold
Meeting the Little Master
The perfect partner
Melbourne disappointment
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
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

(CNN) -- 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.

Meet India's tennis 'prince'

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

Sania Mirza tackles tennis obstacles

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.

India's tennis pioneers

"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.

"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.

I don't think there's any dearth of talent in India -- we've always had the best juniors in the world
Mahesh Bhupathi

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.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:08 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Rafael Nadal of Spain watches the ball in his match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia during during day seven of the China Open at the National Tennis Center on October 3, 2014 in Beijing, China.
Rafael Nadal's body might be giving him a few problems, but his mind remains as strong as ever. Will the Spaniard add to his haul of 14 grand slam titles?
updated 8:42 AM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
A year that began in uncertainty for Roger Federer ended with a historic title for the 17-time grand slam champion and his country.
updated 12:16 PM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
The Scot has served up a few changes to his support team in 2014 but there's one person who isn't going anywhere -- his new fiancée Kim Sears.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
French Tennis player Rene Lacoste, one of France's 'Four Musketeers' who won the Davis Cup in 1932, at Wimbledon. He is wearing his embroidered crocodile motif. Original Publication: People Disc - HH0434 (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
His distinctive crocodile logo is seen on clothing all over the world, but Rene Lacoste also left a lasting legacy in the development of tennis.
updated 2:36 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Marin Cilic follows in the footsteps of his coach Goran Ivanicevic by claiming a grand slam crown for Croatia, winning the U.S. Open.
updated 9:34 AM EDT, Sun September 14, 2014
Serena Williams of the US holds the US Open trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their US Open 2014 women's singles finals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 7, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Serena Williams is without peer in the modern women's game and now she is on a par with two American tennis legends from the past.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
American tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, whom she beat in two sets to become the first black woman to win the Women's Singles Finals at Wimbledon.
Over the course of her remarkable life, Althea Gibson was many things to many people -- but it was tennis where she really left her mark.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Canada and tennis? Really? Yup. The North American tennis power balance is swinging away from the States.
updated 8:52 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
As a player he was as fiery as his hair -- and as Novak Djokovic's coach, Boris Becker says he has to battle to keep his emotions in check.
updated 7:02 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Tennis great Boris Becker says he was stunned by the level of criticism he received after being appointed as Novak Djokovic's coach.
updated 7:01 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
"I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
When Agnieszka Radwanska refused to look her opponent in the eye after losing at Wimbledon, it raised more than eyebrows.
updated 9:14 PM EDT, Sun June 22, 2014
It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
updated 3:46 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
He's regularly voted France's favorite famous person, but many of the nation's youth have "no idea" about his glorious sporting past
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.
ADVERTISEMENT