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Leander relents

After days of maintaining a stoic silence on his Olympic participation, Indian tennis veteran Leander Paes confirmed his participation in the London Olympics setting aside his initial fury at being paired with a lower-ranked Vishnu Vardhan in men's doubles.

sports Updated: Jun 30, 2012 01:10 IST

After days of maintaining a stoic silence on his Olympic participation, Indian tennis veteran Leander Paes confirmed his participation in the London Olympics setting aside his initial fury at being paired with a lower-ranked Vishnu Vardhan in men's doubles.

"Despite being left disheartened by the controversy, I am here to play sport and not politics," Paes said.

"Unfortunately, I see the games being played within games, and as much as that is very disheartening, I am looking forward to playing my sixth Olympics for my country as I have played for 22 years for the people and the flag."http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/6/HTPOLL_Oly1.jpg

Paes, further said he had no complaints about being paired with Vardhan, who is ranked 207 in the ATP list.

Quite contrary to what he had said before AITA came out with a compromise formula, pairing Mahesh and Rohan together in one team, and Paes and Vardhan in the other.

“I’m comfortable with partnering Mahesh Bhupathi or Rohan Bopanna. If they refuse to play with me, I’ll be happy to play with the next best player AITA decides on, however, it would not be acceptable... if I am made to play with a player ranked 207/306 in the world while the No. 13 and No. 15-ranked (doubles) players form another team.”

Paes' partners of choice -- Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna -- refused to combine with him and insisted on being sent as a team themselves.

The All India Tennis Association ultimately bowed to their insistence, leaving Paes furious. If that was not enough, his mixed doubles partner for the Games -- Sania Mirza -- also took a potshot at Paes by claiming that she was used as a "bait" to pacify him.

"As an Indian woman belonging to the 21st century, what I find disillusioning is the humiliating manner in which I was put up as bait to try and pacify one of the disgruntled stalwarts of Indian tennis. While I feel honoured and privileged to have been chosen to partner Leander, the manner and timing of the announcement reeks of male chauvinism...," Sania said.

We at hindustantimes.com conducted an online survey on our site, asking readers for their opinion.

Nearly 90% of the respondents felt that the AITA-Paes-Hesh row brought disrepute to the game of tennis.


Half of the respondents felt that it was Mahesh Bhupathi who was responsible for the controversy, 31% felt it was AITA, and 19% felt Leander was to blame for the row.

On Sania Mirza's outburst, where she claimed she was being used as a 'bait', 56% of the respondents agreed with her, while 13% felt it was difficult to say.

Interestingly, the respondents were equally divided on who they felt stood a chance in the mens doubles team at the London Olympics 2012.

Paes is set to make a record sixth Olympic appearance, and said he would look to help his partner Vishnu Vardhan, who would be making his Olympic Games' debut in London.

"Whatever the obstacles are, which I see are going to be many -- he's never been to Wimbledon before -- whatever I can do as an experienced professional athlete to help my partners out, I do," he said.

"I don't even know if he has grass-court shoes. So it's a bit of a tough one. But he's a really good kid, I'm happy to play with him.

Paes' comment created a buzz on Twitter, where fans slammed him by saying that the quote was completely uncalled for.


Here are some tweets that went abuzz:



http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/6/650x400px.jpg


You can read related stories here:

Twitterati blasts Paes over 'grass-court shoes' comment


Vardhan takes Paes' 'grass-court shoe' comment in stride



Paes confirms participation in London Olympics


Court Unquote - Sania Mirza's open letter