Today marks the 20th anniversary of the deadly 9/11 terror attacks, which killed nearly 3000 people. The heinous crime occurred just two days after the conclusion of the 2001 US Open. The star Indian duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi had exited the tournament in the first round but were based in New York, preparing for their upcoming Davis Cup tie against the United States, which was scheduled for ten days later.
Paes, who was at the World Trade Center Tower 1 the day before the attack, told Indian Express that he had left the city and was in Frankfurt when the attack occurred.
Meanwhile, his doubles partner Bhupathi remained in the city, about 72 blocks from the WTC tower. “At first, we thought it was a plane crash,” Bhupathi recalled, “but then we saw the second plane go into the building.”
“There was a lot of fear, and we had friends who couldn’t get out of the WTC. They had to walk all the way to my apartment because it was a complete shambles “He continued.
Crowd reception post 9/11 attacks
Tennis was the last thing on anyone’s mind as America was witnessing one of the deadliest attacks in history. The Davis Cup match between India and the United States was the first major tennis tournament held after the attacks, following a rescheduling of the original dates.
Bhupathi, Paes, Harsh Mankad, and Fazaluddin Syed were among the Indian players who flew into Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for the Davis Cup tie. The veteran Indian duo of Bhupathi and Paes, who were expecting a hostile reception, were greeted warmly by the crowd, indicating that they remembered the lost ones but the mood had changed.
“It was a fantastic atmosphere. The response from the general public and the American team was outstanding. “They greeted us very warmly,” Paes recalled.
“It was a packed stadium, and the players and fans paid a lot of tributes to the New York police, fire department, and other services,” Bhupathi added.
The match ended with the United States defeating India 4-1.