There was a new twist to the tale in the Asian Hopman Cup to be held in Hyderabad from Thursday when the All India Tennis Association (AITA) named Rohan Bopanna as the “replacement” for injured Leander Paes.
As was reported in these columns last week, Leander’s availability for the event was in doubt as he has still not recovered from an injury on his right hand index finger.
However, Anil Khanna, the AITA secretary, had told HT then that Karan Rastogi would be the replacement. “Karan did well against Pakistan and will play if Leander is unavailable,” Khanna had said.
It transpires that late on Monday, Leander had informed Khanna from Singapore that he was willing to play the Hopman Cup in mixed doubles with Sania Mirza, but playing singles would not be possible.
Since the format comprises one men's singles, one women's singles and one mixed doubles, with only two players in the team, Leander was logically ruled out. The point is Karan Rastogi, who was scheduled to leave last week for training at the Nick Bolletterei Tennis Academy in Florida, was asked to stay back.
In fact, it was only on Monday evening Karan was told he was not going to play in the Hopman Cup after which he flew back to Mumbai from New Delhi in disappointment. When HT contacted Bopanna in Bangalore on Tuesday, he said he was surprised to get the call late on Monday.
“I am excited to be playing this competition. I will be reaching Hyderabad late on Tuesday,” said Bopanna, who was not well after the Chandigarh leg of the Indo-Pak Friendship series. As a result, Bopanna did not play in the last ‘Test’ in New Delhi where Karan did well and came in for praise.
It is clear, some late night confabulations resulted in Bopanna getting the nod at the last minute. And for all those who wonder how the chemistry will be between the big serving Coorgi and Sania, here is his comment. “I think it was five years back Sania and I won the mixed doubles title at the DSCL Open tennis,” recalled Bopanna.
The draw for the Hopman Cup will be made on Wednesday.