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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Columns

There may be another twist
Sukhwant Basra, Hindustan Times
June 21, 2012
First Published: 23:48 IST(21/6/2012)
Last Updated: 00:55 IST(22/6/2012)

Err… sorry, but it’s not over yet. One hates to add more fuel to the inferno that the crybabies of Indian tennis have sparked. However, there is one crucial aspect that the federation has overlooked. Sania Mirza is no flake. That woman has redefined tennis for her gender in this nation. Her opinion has not been solicited; her priorities have not been considered. Instead, she has been used as a token of appeasement for the fuming Leander Paes.

The compromise formula worked out by the federation still hangs in the balance.

On one side is the sizeable heft of Paes and on the other the combined weight of Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza. Yes, Mirza. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/6/22-06-pg20a.jpg

Mirza has won two Grand Slams in the company of Bhupathi.  Her last Commonwealth Games outing with Paes saw the duo going down to Scotland's Colin Fleming and Jocelyn Rae.

That was a major 'Oops!' moment. They had only made it as far as the quarters and the Scottish duo had a combined ranking in the vicinity of 300.
She is yet to speak on her pairing. One presumes that Mirza will keep mum till the wildcard comes through and only then reveal whether she still nurses any affection for Paes or seconds what his estranged former partner feels. No wonder, Paes is asking for written assurances; he probably already knows just how that particular bit may go.

What was appalling was that the newly-appointed federation secretary Bharat Oza actually called Bhupathi and asked him to give a written assurance that he will not look to partner Mirza  at the Olympics or else his doubles entry with Bopanna would not be sent! The veteran refused to bow to the diktat as he knew that the teams had already been announced to the press.

Paes’ volte-face

Paes is yet to agree to the formula. At one level, it's possible to empathise with the man who is ranked seventh in the world but is unable to excite any confidence in other top players from his country.

At another, it's a bit embarrassing to see him act petulant and do just what Bhupathi did in the past --- say one thing first and then do a volte-face. Paes' unconditional participation waned the moment he learnt he was not getting his way. What became pettier was his insistence that he would go to the Games with a junior if the Bhupathi-Bopanna combo is not sent. One is not too convinced that he will miss the Games even though his confidantes have been suggesting that. Emotional he may be, but is he really that maudlin that he will miss out on his chance to play a record sixth Olympics? Unlikely.

While it's laudable that someone like Bopanna, who has never been to the Olympics, stuck to his word and friendship with Bhupathi, the two unleashed a media-fuelled campaign that has sullied the image of Indian tennis forever. It encouraged younger players like Yuki Bhambri, 19, to question why Paes was not keen on giving back to Indian tennis — a statement that met with fitting condemnation from the
federation.

Something positive

The positive spin is that a code of conduct for the future is in the offing; the silly bit is that the federation wants to inflict discipline by reducing the number of support staff travelling with the Davis Cup team. That's laughable. When three officials accompany a team to a small tie like Uzbekistan, then what's the logic of denying each player his coach/physio?

The last week has seen icons of Indian tennis revealed to be squabbling kids. Somehow, one gets the feeling that the whining is not done just yet.


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