Even as the All India Tennis Association (AITA) seem to have broken the Tennis impasse by coming out with a compromise formula meant to massage the egos of the country's bickering male veterans it seems to find itself in a tight spot with the country's top female tennis star Sania Mirza.
The tussle between the AITA and Sania saw mixed reactions on Twitter ranging from feminists congratulating Sania for her "bold" statement to frustrated tennis fans venting out their anger at the continuous drama surrounding India's Olympic tennis team selection.
Sania Mirza went all out and lashed at the India tennis federation and accused them of using her as "bait to pacify" a disgruntled Leander Paes in a statement on Tuesday.
On June 21, the AITA announced two men's doubles pairs for the London Olympics with Paes, ranked seventh in the world as a doubles player, paired with 207th-ranked Vishnu Vardhan in one team. In the other team Bhupathi will get to his wish to partner Rohan Bopanna.
The decision was taken following Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna's adamant refusal to pair with Paes and insistence on being sent as a team.
To compensate Paes - who'd threatened to pull out of the Games just a day ago - he was assured of partnering Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles, provided she gets a wildcard entry.The decision was taken without consulting Mirza, and ignoring the fact that she has won two Grand Slams partnering Bhupathi - the latest at the French Open just a week ago.
Sania hits out at 'male chauvinism'
Sania Mirza got a wild card entry for the Olympics, on Tuesday and hit out at the tennis federation though she indicated that she would partner Paes in the larger interest of the country.
Sania said the manner and timing of the announcement "reeks of male chauvinism," which overlooked her accomplishments in tennis.
"As an Indian woman belonging to the 21st century, what I find disillusioning is the humiliating manner in which I was put up as a bait to try and pacify one of the disgruntled stalwarts of Indian tennis," Mirza said in the statement.
Sania also did not spare Bhupathi with whom she won the French Open earlier this month and said the veteran had "sacrificed" his commitment to play with her at the Olympics after their French Open title early this month.
Meanwhile, Mahesh Bhupathi on Wednesday admitted that him playing with Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles category would have been the best bet for India in the Olympics and said that the star player was used without even being consulted.
AITA responds to Sania; defends team selection
In response to Sania's jibe the AITA on Wednesday put up a weak defence saying the selection for the London Olympics was done purely on merit while acknowledging the accomplishments of Sania.
But tennis body defended its selection process, saying Sania's pairing with Paes was purely based on merit and that it helped the Hyderabadi in securing a wild card from the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
On Twitter "Sania Mirza's" trended during the day with many tweeting their support to Sania to take on the very "chaunistic" decision of the AITA. While few slammed Sania for the letter many tweets poked a jab at Sania's nerve to make the statement after she got the wild card to play in the doubles and not immediately after the AITA declared the tennis teams for the Olympics.
Here are a few popular tweets that did the rounds on Twitter:
Let's hear it for Sania Mirza.Takes guts 2 say wht she did nd take on the Big Boys.Women as bait, not just n tennis but n all spheres.Bravo!— Shobhaa De (@DeShobhaa) June 27, 2012
Wonder if Sania Mirza's strong womanly dignity &self-respect had raised their heads before she got the wild card! Shame on her for hypocrisy— Chindits (@sumansharma) June 27, 2012
Sania Mirza's situation is just like Madhuri Dixit's in Hum Aape Hai Kon film. She wants Bhupathi as partner but she's forced 2play wth Lee.— rupayan bhattacharya (@rupayanb) June 21, 2012
Impassioned tough letter from Sania Mirza.Sania's always broken stereotypes, defying fatwas,standing up against male establishment. Kudos!— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) June 27, 2012
Our readers had mixed comments to make on Sania's poke at the tennis federation and the AITA's mild reaction to it. Though some readers sympathised with Mirza's position many expressed their frustration at all the top tennis players who have put their own egos before the game and the nation.Here are a few reactions that HT readers voiced on our website:
"I think, we should stop all these players those who do not have minimum sense that they all are losing respect and credibility in public eyes. How these guys can play together whether as "mixed" or "un-mixed" when they don't have basic team spirit?"
"Why is it it is only women have the courage to call a spade a spade while males couch theirs with diplomatic polite to cover their cowardice.?"
"At first, players should not be in decision making. Secondly, decision makers should not be emotional, why are they forgetting that the combination Mahesh - Sania has just won French Open."
"Enough we have been through the dramas enacted by AITA ,and the egoistic three men....Paes/Bhupati/Bhopanna,and now Sania,the woman tennis ace. The nation has become the laughing stock in the world,and the Indian government should act now ,and teach a lesson to these players who feel that they are bigger than the nation. '
"Bravo Sania, It is not players alone but AITA & IOA plays a vital part in this politics. This shows the true face of our sporting authorities, not Tennis but all sports, how players are being harassed, sacrificed and made scapegoats of their internal politics."