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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

Tennis

Leander sulks on, Tennis Federation reaches out
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 22, 2012
First Published: 23:15 IST(22/6/2012)
Last Updated: 23:17 IST(22/6/2012)

First things first: The primary reason for tennis selector Rohit Rajpal's visit to London is to join his family that's holidaying there. As an aside, he's been asked by the federation to also catch up with the sulking Leander Paes and get him to publicly state that he will play the Olympics.

Rajpal was Paes' senior at the erstwhile Amritraj Tennis Academy in Chennai. Despite being ignored by then captain Naresh Kumar to favour Paes' Davis Cup debut in 1990, the two have moved beyond their former rivalry and have the kind of relationship that's forged when two young men attend a boarding facility away from home.

Important role
In fact, Rajpal played an important role in presenting versions of both camps during the Olympics selection imbroglio that mired Indian tennis over the last week.

He was constantly in touch with all three feuding players and was pivotal in forging the final deal which came through.

Crucially enough, Rajpal, who is also the Fed Cup captain for India will be looking to soothe Sania Mirza's ruffled feathers. The federation erred when it announced her pairing with Paes in mixed doubles without consulting her. Even more than Paes, the federation is concerned about the vocal Hyderabad player letting fly once the wildcard comes through.

Word emerging from tennis insiders suggests that the federation is supremely confident that Paes' supposed boycott threat is nothing more than the petulant behaviour of a player who has got too used to having his way with the body.

Comments coming from his camp in the lead-up and wake of the final team announcement left his backers shocked as they did not expect him to turn against them after years of support. They are all clear that Paes is not going to back out of his record sixth Olympic appearance.

The federation is also keen to project a former player like Rajpal as its public face. The perception is that not only does the public prefer a former athlete talking about selection matters, but at the same time it becomes easier to deal with players as Rajpal speaks in terms that they can relate to. The other sundry chartered accountants, babus and businessmen, who dot the body, just don't have that connect.


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