A defiant All India Tennis Association (AITA) today stood by its decision to pair Leander Paes with Mahesh Bhupathi for the London Olympics, insisting that teaming the former with a junior player would be "most inappropriate".
Responding to the Sports Ministry's queries on the controversy that flared up after Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna both refused to partner Paes citing their commitment to each other, the AITA explained that the Bhupathi-Bopanna pair was never assured of an entry to the Olympics as a team by it.
AITA said, "asking Leander to pair with a junior player would be the most inappropriate decision and will be deemed to be an insult to Leander Paes, who enjoys great respect in International Tennis Circuit."
Lashing out at both Bhupathi and Bopanna, AITA said, "it should be understood that two players cannot make a pact with each other to keep the number one player out and publicly suggest in media that No.1 player should go to Olympics with No.5."
AITA explained that if it lets Bhupathi and Bopanna pair, then Paes will be forced to play with either Yuki Bhambri (ranked 306) or Vishnu Vardhan (207) since the more experienced Somdev Devvarman is injured.
"It would be meaningless to send Leander with a junior player who has not played Grand Slam. Leander being the best player must be paired with either Rohan Bopanna or Mahesh Bhupathi."
AITA said it was confident that the ministry will agree with the decision taken by it but still gave five options to consider on the matter.
The AITA said the Ministry was free to get in touch with the players individually and take their views. The Ministry had intervened after Bhupathi and Bopanna wrote to Ajay Maken seeking his help in the matter.