Bangalore, June 15: The All India Tennis Association today picked Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi for the men's doubles event of the London Olympics, rejecting the latter's insistence on being paired with Rohan Bopanna in the mega-event next month.
The AITA selection committee “unanimously” picked the Paes and Bhupathi after a meeting here, leaving out Bopanna from the scheme of things.
A nation is allowed two entries for the men's doubles competition of Olympics but AITA has decided to send only one team despite the fact that Bhupathi and Bopanna had refused to be considered for selection as individual players or as a team with Paes.
“We have taken into consideration the form of Mahesh Bhupathi, who won the French Open mixed doubles and also of Leander Paes' Australian Open performance. We thought, these two make the best players to win a medal at the Olympics. That's why we have decided to field them,” AITA Secretary General Anil Khanna said at a press conference.
Asked why AITA chose Bhupathi and Paes when the former was not interested in playing with the latter, Khanna said it is a decision to be made by committee and not the players.
“They have played four Olympics together. They played for India despite differences so we expect them to bury their differences and play for the nation at London Olympics also.
“They have USD 6000 every month from the government (to train). They cannot refuse to play,” he said.
Moments after the press conference, Bhupathi and Bopanna issued a joint statement criticising the AITA decision. “We have repeatedly and consistently communicated to the AITA our desire to only be considered for selection as a team and not as individuals to be paired with any other players,” read the joint statement form Bhupathi and Bopanna.
“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,” the duo said.
The two players said they will continue to pursue their case so that they be selected as a team before the final entry is sent to ITF.
“Choosing to send only one team when India was entitled to two, denies two highly accomplished players of the privilege and opportunity to represent the country at the Olympics. This is a sad day for Indian tennis from all perspectives.
“We are sure that there have been multiple considerations leading to this decision but are hopeful that better sense will prevail before the ITF's team nomination deadline of June 21, 2012. We will continue to make our case to all concerned over the next few days,” he said.
However, Khanna said AITA will take action in case of a refusal to participate and that the body had spoken to all three players via teleconference before arriving at the decision. “Having heard the three players, we decided that the most appropriate pairing for the Olympics would be Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. If they don't play, we will take action. We will not send them to Olympics at all,” Khanna said.
On the mixed doubles pairing, Khanna said a decision would be made only after Sania Mirza gets a wild card entry into the women's events.
“It was decided that a wild card request will be made for Sania for either singles or doubles with Rushmi Chakaravarthy. If Sania gets it by June 28, India will have an option to participate in the mixed doubles as well. Sania could play either with Paes or Bhupathi. But a final decision on the pairing will be made only after Wimbledon,” Khanna declared.
It was also decided in the selection committee meeting that AITA will seek a wild card for the talented Somdev Devvarman, who has been sidelined due to a shoulder injury.
“A wild card request will be made for Somdev in the men's singles event as he was in the mock entry list of June 2011 but had to suffer because of injury,” Khanna said.
Somdev has not played competitive tennis right from the start of the 2012 season due to a shoulder injury.