l Bhupathi-Bopanna issue a scathing joint statement Governing body threatens to ban both
The ever-intriguing Lee-Hesh saga took a new turn on Friday. The All India Tennis Association (AITA) paired Leander Paes with Mahesh Bhupathi for the London Olympics, but the latter openly condemned the decision. "It as a sad day for Indian tennis," declared Bhupathi a few minutes after the five-member selection committee announced its decision in Bangalore.
Bhupathi had requested AITA to pair him up with regular partner Rohan Bopanna. But AITA secretary-general Anil Khanna said the players had no say. "Paes and Bhupathi 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 the London Olympics also. They have $6,000 every m
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"There was a dilemma before us: whether to pick two pairs, one pair or just a medal-winning combination. The AITA executive committee as well as the selection committee decided to go for the pair that has the best chance for a medal," said Khanna.
Bhupathi and Bopanna issued a statement soon after the pairing was announced. "As a team that is entitled to a direct acceptance based on ITF criteria, we are saddened to learn of the decision of the AITA selection committee to not nominate us for participation. To, instead, choose to nominate one that has had four previous unsuccessful attempts fails to put the interests of the nation first," the statement said. Bhupathi also threatened to withdraw from the Olympics. "I have already told AITA that I will not be available to play if I am paired with Leander. I haven't even spoken to Leander since November," he said.
Khanna also said that the AITA was trying to get a wild card entry for Sania Mirza. "We are trying to get a wild card for Sania for the women's singles or doubles along with Rushmi Chakravarthi," he said.
As far as the mixed doubles is concerned, Khanna said they will wait till June 28. "This will be decided after Wimbledon."
Story so far
In January 2011, Paes and Bhupathi decided to team up, ending a nine-year separation on the ATP circuit. The idea was to prepare well in the run up to the London Olympics
The Indian Express won the Chennai Open. They finished runners-up at the Australian Open
Despite enjoying a fairly decent season, their association came to another bitter end in January 2012
Bhupathi announced he would pair up with Rohan Bopanna with an aim to take part in the Olympics. Bhupathi said he and Paes didn’t stand a chance to win an Olympic medal
Reports emerge that Paes was the one who initiated the split. He felt Bhupathi wasn’t quick enough and approached Bopanna. However, Bopanna decided to side with Bhupathi
Last week, Bhupathi and Bopanna wrote a letter to AITA, saying they would be available for selection for the London Games only as a team and not individually
On Thursday, a day before the team selection, Vece Paes, Leander’s father, wrote to AITA and the sports ministry that his son should be given a chance to select his partner as he is India’s top-ranked doubles player
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have never won a medal at the Games in four attempts. Here’s what they achieved from 1996 to 2008...
Paes had partnered Ramesh Krishnan in Barcelona in 1992, when they had reached the quarters. Krishnan retired the following year. Bhupathi, meanwhile, was making a name for himself on the doubles circuit. He and Paes had played together in the Davis Cup and ATP tournaments. Their partnership was beginning to flourish so they were the natural choice for Atlanta. The Indians began with a hard-fought three-set win over Chinese wildcards Pan Bing and Xia Jia-Ping (4-6 6-4 6-4). However, they lost in the second round to Australia’s Woodies, Todd and Mark 6-4 2-6 2-6
By now, Lee-Hesh were an established pair on the ATP circuit and had enjoyed much success on the Tour. At one stage, they had also achieved the world No 1 ranking. So quite clearly, they were among the medal contenders at the Sydney Olympics. They were given a direct entry by the International Tennis Federation. The ‘Indian Express’ showed their class as they pulverised unfancied Romanians Andrei Pavel and Gabriel Trifu 6-3 6-4 in the first round. However, they ran into the Woodies again and, expectedly, stumbled in the second round losing 3-6 6-7(1)
After parting ways a couple of years earlier, the duo had decided to reunite for the Athens Olympics. Their superb form going into the Olympics made them the favourites for the doubles gold medal. They had steamrollered almost every opponent and were the only seeded team to figure in the semifinals after beating Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett. However, they suffered shock defeat to Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuettler of Germany. In the bronze medal play-off tie, they lost 6-7(5) 6-4 14-16 to Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia in a marathon match
A few months before the Games, Bhupathi wrote a letter to the All India Tennis Association (AITA), stating he did not want to play with Paes as he was better prepared with Rohan Bopanna. The AITA shot down his demand and asked the duo to ensure that their differences did not hurt India’s medal chances. The veteran duo put behind their frosty relations and recreated the old magic to sail through the first two rounds to reach the quarterfinals. However, they meekly surrendered to eventual winners Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 6-2 6-4
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