Great opportunity for Vishnu Vardhan and Rohan Bopanna to compete in their first Olympics
After stressing on the medal-winning aspect consistently in its attempt to arrive at the best possible combination for the Olympics, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) was able to give a fair chance of chasing a medal for all its leading players as it named Mahesh Bhupathi with Rohan Bopanna for the men’s doubles even as it assured the mixed doubles entry for Leander Paes in partnership with Sania Mirza.
Making the announcement, an hour before the original schedule on Thursday, the president of AITA, Anil Khanna, said that the two men’s doubles entries were being sent to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) even as he made a fervent appeal to Paes, to compete in the Olympics with Vishnu Vardhan as his partner.
“'The AITA agrees that this decision is unfair to India’s No.1 and world No.7 player Leander Paes. AITA holds Leander in very high esteem and appeals to him to accept this decision in the best interest of the nation. We are confident that Leander will not disappoint us as he has done yeoman service to the nation over the last 25 years,” said Khanna, as he read out a prepared statement.
Paes said on Wednesday that he would withdraw from the Olympics if forced to compete with a lesser ranked player, while allowing Bhupathi and Bopanna as the second pair for the Games.
Reeling off the five options one by one and ticking them off, the AITA president said that it was unthinkable to have a team without Paes, and in the same breath said that the AITA did not want to exercise the harsh option of leaving out Bhupathi and Bopanna as it would not serve the best interest of the nation.
Code of conduct
However, he stressed that a code of conduct would be established and appropriate action may be pursued after the Olympics.
“We are fully aware that Leander Paes, our great tennis player and undoubtedly the most patriotic one and who has served the nation selflessly for 25 years and holds the world record of third highest all-time matches in Davis Cup has been driven to the wall and had to therefore react sharply yesterday much against his true character.
AITA does not want the image of Leander to be tarnished’’, said Khanna.
Stressing that the selectors had all along kept in mind that leaving Bhupathi out of the men’s doubles would also deprive him of a chance to compete in the mixed doubles, when the original decision to pair Paes with Bhupathi, ahead of Bopanna, was announced in Bangalore last week much to the disagreement of both Paes and Bhupathi.
In a joint statement, Bopanna and Bhupathi said that they were delighted and excited at the prospect of playing together at the Olympics and would focus on the preparations for the London Games.
“The events of the last few days have been extremely challenging for all concerned, but we respect them as necessary steps in this process.
“In making each of our decisions, we were guided by our strong convictions regarding what we believed was fair,” said the statement from Bhupathi and Bopanna.
The AITA also pleaded with Paes, “to forgive the utterances of the last few days of some of the persons which were based only on half truths’’.
Khanna said that it was a great opportunity for Vishnu Vardhan and Rohan Bopanna to compete in their first Olympics, and hoped that Rushmi Chakravarthi would also be rewarded for all her contributions to women’s tennis in the country with a doubles wild card along with Sania Mirza. The ITF will announce the wild cards on June 28.
The AITA reasoned that with their combined rank of 19, Paes and Sania had a good chance to be among the 12 direct acceptances for the mixed doubles, following a study of all possible combinations from around the world.
The rank of July 23 will be used by the ITF to seed the players for the mixed doubles, while the June 11 cut-off date would be used for accepting the entries on site in London after the Games begin.
“AITA now expects all players to graciously accept the decision which has been taken after due consultation and deliberation in the best interest of the players and the nation and to kindly remain silent,” said Khanna.