The national tennis federation finds itself between a rock and a hard pair. Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna have conveyed to the body that they are only available for selection as a team. AITA has written back to ascertain whether their availability is conditional to their pairing. Word from their camp suggests it is.
India has the chance to send two doubles teams to the Olympics. While Leander Paes gets to play with anyone he wants, provided he has some kind of tennis ranking, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna are likely to get into the draw on account of the fact that the former is 14 and the latter 12 on the latest ranking list which counts as the final qualification criteria for the Olympics.
However, the buzz emanating from the tennis federation suggests that the head honcho has decided that Paes gets to partner Bopanna while Bhupathi sits out. This is silly. After all, both players have already expressed to their confidants that a doubles medal is most unlikely.
Then, in the Olympics the singles players also figure in the doubles draw. It's a given that Roger Federer is one of the best players tennis has ever seen. But the way he made our duo of Paes-Bhupathi look like kindergarten students en route a 6-2, 6-4 victory at Beijing 2008 in the company of Stanislas Wawrinka, it becomes obvious that no matter what they say about doubles being a specialist's domain, when the singles guys have a go, they are very difficult to contain.
The containment bit is especially difficult for two ageing warriors like Paes and Bhupathi. As such, it is obvious that the prize that our doubles maestros are pursuing at London is a medal in the mixed doubles.
It has been learnt that Sania Mirza's wildcard, either in doubles or singles, is being managed by Anil Khanna, the soon-to-be president of the Indian federation and the present chief of the Asian Tennis Federation. With the mixed doubles draw being a spot sign-in, a player can only get in if he or she figures in one of the other draws. This is the root of the problem.
While Mirza has expressed her desire to partner Bhupathi, the federation is looking to give her no choice if it decides to send a Paes-Bopanna combo. That effectively rules out Bhupathi.
Of course, Bhupathi is being targeted for the fact that he has been vocal about the ineptness of the federation and Khanna.
He was denied a chance at the Khel Ratna since Khanna ensured that his recommendation was sent just that wee bit late to make certain it did not qualify. Something similar is afoot for the Olympic selection.
The mixed doubles is just a draw of 16. That means, you win two matches and you have a great shot at a medal. While this correspondent has no doubt that Paes is the better grass-court player, but would it be fair to deny Bhupathi given that he has gelled wonderfully with Mirza to win two Grand Slams?
Why not Yuki?
Since the last one was just about a week ago, Khanna needs to be careful just how he swings this latest machination. Or else, he could just go with what the players are saying and partner Paes with a rising star like Yuki Bhambri.
Since the doubles medal is a distant shot, why not give the future of Indian tennis a chance to experience the Games? The selection committee should be looking to the future instead of pandering to the egos of the present lot.