Bhupathi stands firm by pull-out decision

Bhupathi said his pull out would not affect India's medal chances at the Asian Games.

india Updated: Oct 03, 2006 20:18 IST

Confusion prevailed over Mahesh Bhupathi's startling announcement of not playing for India again with the multiple Grand Slam champion standing firm by his decision and the All India Tennis Association feeling confident about persuading him to reverse it.

Bhupathi had announced on Monday in Mumbai, after winning the doubles title at the Kingfisher Airlines Open, that he was retiring from team competitions including the upcoming Doha Asian Games in December.

"I am not playing," Bhupathi said when asked whether his decision was final.

"I have not sent an official communication yet but I had a person-to-person chat with Anil Khanna (Secretary General of the All India Tennis Association) when he was in Mumbai. I think they respect my decision," he said.

Khanna, on his part believed, Bhupathi will play in Doha as well as in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

"I have no doubt that he will play. We will pursuade him to change his decision," Khanna told PTI.

"I am confident that Leander (Paes) and Mahesh will win the gold not only in the Asian Games but also in the Olympics. The Doha gold is reserved for them."

The Indian squad has already been named but Khanna said there was no need to talk about replacements.

He also did not believe that Bhupathi's decision had anything to do with Sania Mirza opting to play with Paes in the mixed doubles.

"I think Mahesh is too big for these things. I think his decision has got to do less with Asian Games than the Davis Cup where India is playing at the zonal level," Khanna said.

Bhupathi said his decision was not sudden but one which he had "been contemplating for a while."

"It was due to a bunch of factors. I made the decision based on all circumstances around me," he said.

Among the factors he listed were his ambition to win the Australian Open and the feeling that the Davis Cup team could manage without him in the zonal ties.

Both these, however, were tied to the third but most important factor - his inability to renew his partnership with Paes on the ATP Tour.

"I spoke to Leander during the ATP event and he said that after winning the US Open with (Martin) Damm, it would be difficult for him to break that pairing," Bhupathi said.

"Maybe if they had not won the US Open, things might have been different. But fortunately or unfortunately, they won."

But the player's further argument seem to hold no water.

"I think to win a Davis Cup tie a team needs three good singles players. I told this to Anil Khanna last year also," he said on the team's fortunes in the men's world team competition.

"I think the youngsters we have are good enough for the zonal level."

But even with Paes and him guaranteeing the doubles win, India came close to being relegated this season.

And when playing away ties against Japan, Korea or Uzbekistan, which is the situation confronting India in the first round next year, the team has always faced an uphill task.

On playing in multi-disciplinary events, Bhupathi said the pair has to play more events to have any reasonable chance of winning a medal.

"The last time we went (to Athens Games in 2004), we went half-heartedly. I don't want that to happen again this time (in Beijing)," he said.

Ironically, in the lead up to the 2004 Games, both Bhupathi and Paes played in only two Tour events and maintained that was enough for players of their calibre who have been in the circuit for years.

The special chemistry between them would take care, they had said then.

When the legendary Ramanathan Krishnan spoke against their wisdom, Bhupathi famously said, "he should wake up and smell the morning coffee."

Eventually, they went down to Mario Ancic (Bhupathi's winning partner at Mumbai) and Ivan Ljubicic in a marathon five-setter of a bronze medal match.

Bhupathi admitted in hindsight he was proved wrong and that he wanted to play the whole of 2007 with Paes.

"First I thought two tournaments were enough. But in the end we came home without a medal," he said.

"I thought we both will play the full year on the Tour this time but it is not going to happen."

Bhupathi said his pull out would not affect India's medal chances at the Asian Games.

"I think Leander and Sania will win the mixed doubles, and Leander and Rohan Bopanna will be the top seeds in the doubles," he said.

Bhupathi also denied his growing commitments off the court was a factor in his decision.

"Definitely not. Globosport has been there for four years now. For me, tennis comes first and playing for the country is always special. It was a tough decision.

The Australian Open is one Grand Slam neither Bhupathi nor Paes have managed to win yet.

First Published: Oct 03, 2006 19:09 IST