It looked as if Mahesh Bhupathi could have enjoyed the best of both the worlds, by playing doubles with Leander Paes and the mixed doubles with Sania Mirza, but spoilt his chances of a medal by siding strongly with Rohan Bopanna.
However, the country’s first Grand Slam champion who had made the breakthrough with Rika Hiraki of Japan in the French Open mixed doubles in 1997, was categorical in his argument that the dice was loaded against his very presence in the London Games. “Nothing is my doing. I knew who the No. 1 player wanted to play with. I also knew what the national federation was planning.
“Moreover, I was told clearly when they offered me a chance to play with Leander, that our performances in Wimbledon would be considered before finalising the mixed doubles team for the Olympics’’, said Bhupathi, on way to London from Hamburg. He may have given a good account of himself in four Olympics and come close to a bronze medal in the Athens Games, but Bhupathi said that he would not have been in the reckoning for the London Games but for the mixed doubles title that he and Sania won in the French Open.
“The media also backed my case strongly about playing doubles with Rohan, otherwise the plan was to keep me out of the Olympics’’, said Bhupathi.
Looking at the competition ahead, Bhupathi observed that Olympics was the toughest event because of the participation of top singles and doubles players in the doubles field.
“It will be tougher this time, but we have been preparing for seven months and have worked on specifics,” said Bhupathi, about his readiness to strike with Rohan Bopanna.
Best scope for a medal
Though he had faith in his combination with Bopanna, Bhupathi was clear that Paes with Sania had the best scope for a medal among the four Indian teams fielded for the London Games.
He, however, said that it was difficult to rate the chances of the Indian mixed doubles team in a field of 16, as the draw would be made only on July 31.
Asked whether it was fair to overlook the country’s No. 1 singles player, Yuki Bhambri, and get an wild card for Somdev Devvarman who had not played competitive tennis for more than seven months owing to a shoulder surgery,
Bhupathi shot back, “Yuki is only 20, and he will get his chances. Somdev deserves the wild card for what he has done for Indian tennis.”
Yes, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) had sought a singles wild card for Devvarman as a gesture of gratitude for winning three gold medals in all in the Commonwealth and Asian Games.