In a belated but none too surprising a sequence of events, Leander Paes confirmed he would play the London Olympics with Vishnu Vardhan while reiterating his commitment to “play for the country.”
Surely, the added incentive of being the first tennis player to participate in six Olympics would not have been lost on him.
The 39-year-old was miffed that Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna had refused to play with him, and despite being the No 1 doubles player in India he had to settle with playing with Vardhan, ranked 207, for the Olympics. But he broke his silence at Wimbledon on Thursday evening, saying he would adhere to the All India Tennis Association’s decision.
“I am here to play sport not politics. Unfortunately I see games played within games which is disheartening but without doubt I will play my sixth Olympics for my country going with the teams AITA has selected,” Paes said after he and partner Radek Stepanek entered the second round with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Colin Ebelthite and John Peers. “It is the dream of any young Indian kid to play and no-one is going to stop me from that,” Paes, a singles bronze medallist in 1996, said.
“I have been the only player that qualified directly for the Olympics from India and for me that is a great honour. I have already got an Olympic medal in singles and it is the greatest joy.
“Every Olympics has some nonsense coming with it. I know how much hard work goes into what I do and people chose to respect it and I am very lucky that most of India does. If people chose to disrespect it then that is their choice.”
Vardhan has won two back-to-back Futures titles recently and his serve could be used as a weapon on grass, but his lack of big-match experience hasn’t gone down too well with Paes.
“The only one that I need to worry about is Vishnu,” the veteran player said. “The poor boy is 307 (sic) in the world and I don’t even know if he has grasscourt shoes. So it is like a bit of a tough one.
“He is a really good kid and I am very happy to play with him whatever the obstacles are that I see they are going to be many.
“One of the things I pride myself on is having played with over 90 different partners on the men’s side alone and I always get my partners to play better.”