Paes threatens to pull out of the Games
All India Tennis Association (AITA) has been caught in its own game. The "please all" formula that the tennis association presented to the sports ministry on Wednesday has backfired, with its "very own" player Leander Paes now threatening to pull out of the Olympics if he is not paired with a "worthy partner".
Taking a U-turn from its rigid stand, AITA president Anil Khanna met sports minister Ajay Maken on Wednesday morning and apparently apprised him about the Association's compromise formula that has now been devised "in national interest".
This move was also a result of the appeal made by AITA life president and external affairs minister SM Krishna to "forget personal differences and play for the country".
As per the formula, AITA agreed to send two teams (if all parties agree) with Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna forming the first team and Paes and Vishnu Vardhan, ranked 207 in world, being the other. This compromise was reached after confabulations went late into Tuesday night at RK Khanna Stadium. This formula came with a rider that Leander will be partnering Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles.
Confident of reaching a consensus, AITA immediately reached out to the players but there was another twist waiting for them. It was Paes's letter in which he threatened to withdraw from the Games. He categorically refused to play with a rookie. "I can't be condoning or rewarding the drama enacted by Mahesh and Rohan. I am happy to partner Mahesh or Rohan at the Olympics and will withdraw if forced to play with a low-ranked player," Paes said in his letter. He added, "this decision is not taken lightly and with any rancour".
A startled AITA, which was to hold a press conference at 5.30pm on Wednesday, postponed it to 2pm on Thursday, the last day to submit the names to the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
Paes further said that allowing Bhupathi and Bopanna to defy the decision of the selection committee would be a bad example. "If this is the case, then for the sake of Indian Tennis and to relieve the AITA in regards to the selection of the team, I have no other option but to withdraw from the Olympics."
Insiders say there is also a fight for the right to play in the mixed doubles with Sania Mirza. "I would also bring to your notice that Sania and I, by virtue of our combined ranking of No. 19 on the ATP Tour have got a direct entry in the mixed doubles at the Olympics," Paes wrote in his letter. Sania and Bhupathi recently won the French Open and it may not be apt to separate the duo.
Meanwhile, last minute negotiations are on between different parties. A clear picture could emerge at 2 pm on Thursday.
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