NEW DELHI: There is infighting among Indian tennis players over a doubles berth in the 2012 London Olympics.
Leander Paes is the only Indian tennis player to have gained direct individual entry to the London Games based on his top—10 ranking. But Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna have declined to partner with Paes, leaving the All India Tennis Association (AITA) in a fix.
Anil Khanna, president of the AITA, said: "We have only three eminent doubles players and only two out of the three can go. Therefore, it was felt that we should go and talk to the selection committee once again and see what we need to do.
"But the selection committee of the AITA has already decided that number one player which is Leander Paes should partner Mahesh Bhupathi, who is India’s number three right now. And in case Mahesh declines, then Leander should partner with Rohan Bopanna. So we will re—discuss and we will be writing to the player once again."
The tennis federation has listed multiple options, including pairing Paes with either Bhupathi or Bopanna, or to select either Yuki Bhambri or Vishnu Vardhan, both players with limited experience, to partner with Paes.
Vece Paes, the father of Leander Paes, said: "From 1999 to now, they have played together and broken their partnership four times. Leander has always stayed quiet on these break—ups. We do not know what is instigating Mahesh to take that stance."
The federation has also gone to the extent of proposing disciplinary action against Bhupathi and Bopanna, if they do not abide by the federation’s decision.
Krishna Bhupathi, father of Mahesh Bhupathi, insisted that his son’s decision was not personal. "He has just taken a stand, that he wants to play with a partner with whom he has already prepared for the games. It has nothing to do with ego, nothing to do with being adamant, nothing to do with liking or disliking a personality," he said.
Many believe the controversy may weaken India’s chances of a gold medal win in the London Olympics, as it restricts the tennis federation’s options to send a team consisting of the best players.
Earlier, India’s sports ministry had asked the tennis federation to look into the possibility of sending two teams for the London Games. But the ministry later distanced itself from the row and directed the authorities to decide in ’the best of national interest’.
With just a day to go to file entries for the Olympics, a final decision is keenly awaited from the tennis federation, as sports lovers do not want the controversy to put a possible London Olympics medal at stake.