On Friday, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) had picked Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi to represent the country in men's doubles at the London Olympics. Bhupathi, who along with partner Rohan Bopanna had earlier sent a mail to AITA saying they would be up for selection only as a team, reacted saying the decision was a “worst possible in the interest of the country.”
During a press conference in Bangalore on Saturday, newly elected AITA president, Anil Khanna, urged Bhupathi to “act more maturely”.
“Both (Bhupathi and Bopanna) have to realise that the nation comes much before commitment to each other,” Khanna said. “Mahesh should act more maturely and I am confident he will play with Leander.
“No doubt Rohan (Bopanna) is a good player and has proved his skill in the recent tournaments and he is also a young player who can withstand any tension in the field. But Leander is the No. 1 player and playing with Mahesh (Bhupathi) has brought many laurels to the country. The selection was done after a teleconference with all the players,” he added.
The best pair
Khanna stressed that Paes-Bhupathi was India's best pair and most likely to win a medal. “While Leander is good on the right court, Mahesh is so on the left court. Their combination is the best.”
Meanwhile, Paes has made sure the ball remains in AITA/Bhupathi's court via his official statement to the press. “I have always maintained that I will play with whoever the selection committee and AITA choose and this continues to be my stand. It is a well-known fact that when asked by the AITA, I have expressed my preference to play with Rohan Bopanna as my partner in the Olympics 2012, based on his physical fitness and big serve.”
The selection furore has caught the attention of the Indian Olympic Association as well, which, on Friday, sought a report from the AITA regarding the doubles team.
IOA acting president, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, in a letter to Khanna said, “Our whole focus at the moment should be to send those players/teams, which can be medal prospects and I strongly believe that we have a very good chance of winning a medal in tennis this time.
“As the contingent for the London Olympics is going under IOA's banner, (I) would like to know the full details regarding this issue,” Malhotra said in a release.
And, despite the many points of view stated, one gets a sense that we haven't heard the last on the matter yet.