Amid continuing stand-off over men’s doubles pairing to represent India at next- month’s London Olympics, All India Tennis Association (AITA) today toughened its stand, saying it would not buckle under pressure from Mahesh Bhupathi, who is refusing to partner Leander Paes.
Telling Bhupathi to be “a little more mature”, AITA said both he and Rohan Bopanna, whom he wants as his partner in place of Paes, should realise that the nation comes ahead of their commitment to each other.
If Bhupathi expects AITA would buckle under pressure and refuses to pair with Paes, he should know that “it will not happen.”
These remarks by Anil Khanna, soon after his unopposed election as AITA President, indicate that the deadlock persists.
“Both (Bhupathi and Bopanna) have to realise that the nation comes much before commitment to each other,” Khanna said at a press conference.
Khanna stressed that the Paes—Bhupathi pair is the best team for the Olympics.
“It will have to be Leander and Mahesh. Olympics is a different ball game and tougher than a Grand Slam and wealth of experience that the duo has would keep them in good stead in crunch and pressure situation. We have to send medal winning team,” Khanna said, and expressed hope that Bhupathi would agree to team up with Paes.
Bhupathi and Bopanna, in a joint statement yesterday, said they have repeatedly and consistently communicated to the AITA their desire to only be considered for selection as a team and not as individuals to BE paired with any other player.
The two players had also said they would continue to pursue their case so that they be selected as a team before the final entry is sent to ITF.
Meanwhile, Leander Paes has said that he is ready to play in Olympics with any player that AITA chooses.
“I have no reaction to the recent statements made by Mahesh Bhupathi to the media. I have always maintained that I will play with whoever the selection committee and AITA choose and this continues to be my stand,” Paes said a statement to NDTV.
He, however, said given a preference, he would prefer to partner Rohan Bopanna.
“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,” he said.