Leander Paes will make a record seventh Olympic appearance at Rio this August, the country’s tennis body said on Saturday, ending days of uncertainty over the fate of the iconic player who has won 18 Grand Slam titles.
Paes, 42, will pair up with Rohan Bopanna in the men’s doubles at the Olympics, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) president Anil Khanna announced after a selection committee meeting.
Bopanna’s original choice was Saketh Myneni but the AITA selection committee felt that Paes and Bopanna are the “best bet” for a medal.
Paes said he was “humbled” by AITA’s decision.
“To play for the flag has always been the greatest inspiration for me….The honour to represent India at Rio Olympics 2016 is a dream come true,” he added.
Bopanna said he admired Paes, who won a singles bronze medal at the Atlanta Games in 1996, but believed their styles of play were not complementary.
“The AITA selection committee has now made its decision after due consideration of my representation...I respect this decision and look forward to participating in Rio,” Bopanna said in a statement.
Bopanna, ranked 10th in the world, will now have two shots at the Olympic medal as he has also been nominated for the mixed doubles event with Sania Mirza, the world’s number one women’s doubles player.
Sania will play women’s doubles with Prarthana Thombare, who trains at her academy under her father and coach Imran Mirza.
Paes, ranked 46 in the world, partnered with Swiss Martina Hingis to win the French Open mixed doubles title last week to complete his second career Grand Slam.
Paes will become the only tennis player to appear in seven Olympics. Mark Knowles of the Bahamas has played in five.
However, the record for the most Olympic appearances is held by Canadian equestrian star Ian Miller who has represented the country 10 times in the showpiece sporting event.
To ensure that Bopanna and Paes sort out their differences and “discomfort”, the AITA has also named them in the Davis Cup squad for next month’s Korea tie.
The committee, in a break from tradition, also announced seven names for the home Davis Cup tie in Chandigarh this July. Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Bopanna, Paes, Myneni, Sumit Nagal and Vishnu Vardhan have made themselves available for the July 15-17 grasscourt tie.