You are the innocent fan. You are so gullible that you believe that these people, who battle larger than life on that playground, are actually heroes. That they have special mettle. You put them on a pedestal and worship them for their skill. You adore them. You, dear reader, are a fool. Just like me.
Your correspondent, a failed tennis player, began to cover the sport because of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. Journalists get to see these ‘stars’ up close. If you are smart enough, the wisdom of the age-old adage ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ strikes home pretty soon. Soon enough, one realises that beyond the glamour of their wins on court, these guys aren’t extraordinary human beings.
They are just like you and me. That includes pettiness of thought, selfishness of action and greed for more than what one has. Just that in their case, their egos get inflated by our adoration and these actions become all the more louder.
In one day, Paes has destroyed his image as a man who plays his heart out for the flag. The man who broke down every time the national anthem played, now comes across as a little kid who won’t go to the party unless he gets all the candy. That too, in the form and flavour that he wants.
Till now, Bhupathi and Bopanna were the adamant upstarts, refusing to partner the good guy Paes, who was willing to play for his country, unconditionally.
The ugly side
But by offering to not go for the Games if partnered with a junior player, Paes has revealed that he too can indulge in brinkmanship.
Further, a reality check is in order. He has to realise that if he has such terrible relations with his peers, he can hardly hope to keep getting his way just because the federation has supported him in the past. Also, he is not being victimised; it’s flawed logic to break a combo that has trained together for six months to appease the top-ranked Indian.
At London, Paes will become the first tennis player ever to play six Olympics. Given the toll that the modern singles game takes on the body, this would be a record that could last for quite some time. It’s incredulous to believe that the man who lives for records would turn down his chance at tennis immortality.
As such, he is probably just raising the stakes to get an assured mixed doubles slot with Sania Mirza.
That may anyway happen by default as the federation’s analysis of the other possible pairs shows that as of now the combined ranking of Paes-Mirza assures a direct entry while the Bhupathi-Mirza combo does not. This situation is fluid and depends on just who all sign up for mixed doubles by the final deadline of 11 am on July 31.
Blast from past
Also, Paes would do well to look back. When he got his first break at the 1992 Barcelona Games in the company of Ramesh Krishnan, Paes was ranked a lowly 265 in doubles.
Vishnu Vardhan, the 24-year-old that the federation is considering to pair up with him, is 207.
The federation had made up its mind to send two teams to London and was set to announce the same at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
That was till Paes lost his cool. Along with that he lost a lot of respect and fans. Especially those gullible ones. I, of course, am a hard-nosed cynic by now.