The tale behind Paes-Bhupathi’s chest bump celebration

It was a unique way for the Indian Express to raise their game as the duo went on to become the world’s No. 1 doubles team.

By Naveen Peter

It’s a unique way to celebrate. It catches the eye every time. The Bryan brothers did it and so did Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, one of India’s celebrated doubles pairs.

But how did the chest bump - a celebration when two players collide into each other’s chest while jumping in mid-air - start for the Indian tennis duo?

“You know, I really don’t remember when we did it for the first time,” admitted Mahesh Bhupathi when quizzed about it in a recent interview on the Wimbledon Facebook page.

“I think it was in 1997 in Singapore at a Challenger event. But I may be wrong. It was about getting that extra energy going in a tight match, 7-6 in the third, you needed that. Since it worked we used it quite often.”

It worked and worked well.  

The Indian Express, as the duo was fondly called, was on top of their game in the late 1990s till the early 2000s when they formed a formidable pair at the international circuit. 

The 1999 season was the highlight for Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi as they reached the finals of the all the four Majors, winning the French Open and Wimbledon.

It’s all about the adrenaline

But the Indian tennis pair needed a little something to get things going on the court, and it’s why the chest bump celebration came into play.

The 1999 season was memorable for Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.

“It helped in getting some adrenaline going. You know, I had to get this guy fired up. To get him going,” Leander Paes explained. 

“When he's playing in his gear, like the fourth gear, the fifth gear, when he's in good control, we generally win. For me, I could raise my level at any given point.

“At the beginning of any tournament, he'd be solid, so I needed to get up. Then towards the semis and the final when those opponents were playing in great form, We needed some energy as well.”

But with Mahesh Bhupathi towering at 6’1” in as compared to the 5’10” of his partner, it would always be a challenge for the Olympic medallist in Leander Paes to get it right.

In fact, the bronze medallist from Atlanta 1996 remembers his coaches warning him about a possible injury too.

“If you look at him, he's taller and bigger. So, I had to jump about two feet in the air and smack him in the chest. And sometimes my head would hit his jaw,” chuckled Leander Paes.

“But that got him going and fired him up. You know it's like one of those vintage cars where you have to crank it up a bit, it would be amazing. 

“It actually showed the opponent that we were in sync,” he concluded.