Indian tennis is headed for turbulence. The All India Tennis Association's selection committee met here on Friday afternoon and preferred to field the old pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi for the London Olympics.
The gambit, though, has angered Bhupathi, and the days to follow are bound to further aggravate the tale of a divided house.
The cold vibes between Paes and Bhupathi were overlooked as the AITA sought refuge in patriotism, and the association's vice-president and secretary Anil Khanna said: “The team with the best possible medal winning chance has been selected. I am sure the two will put the nation first and overcome their petty differences. Paes said that he is willing to play with anyone.
“Mahesh expressed his reservations but we hope that he will get over the emotions.”
Minutes after the press briefing, Bhupathi and his current doubles partner Rohan Bopanna emailed a joint statement that categorically revealed their differences with the selectors' viewpoint.
The duo also expressed hoped that “better sense will prevail before the team nomination deadline of June 21.”
The statement said: “We have worked tirelessly on our pairing to represent the nation on sport's most prestigious platform. We have repeatedly communicated to the AITA our desire to only be considered for selection as a team. This was on the basis that we are a team legitimately entitled to a Direct Acceptance to the Olympics by virtue of our rankings.
“It is indeed disappointing that the AITA has chosen to disregard our request. To not send one of the best tennis teams in the world to the Olympics — and to nominate one that has had four previous unsuccessful attempts — fails to put the interests of the nation first.”
Earlier, Khanna had hinted at disciplinary action if Bhupathi failed to fall in line.
It is reliably learnt that during the tele-conference which the selectors had with the players, Bhupathi and Bopanna refused to be paired with Paes.
Amidst the tension, there were few streaks of optimism: Khanna spoke of AITA's resolve to seek a wild-card each for Sania Mirza — either in singles or doubles along with Rushmi Chakravarthy — and Somdev Devvarman in singles.
If Sania gains a wildcard she can be paired with either Paes or Bhupathi, Khanna said, but the decision will be made only after Wimbledon.