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Lee-Hesh failed in 4 Olympics, but still best bet for London

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Bangalore, Jun 21: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have gone together for four Olympics and returned empty-handed. Will they turn it around in their fifth attempt in London Olympics 2012 starting next month?

This is the burning issue at the moment. Some have argued that let Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna join hands and they present the best chance of a medal in London. But experience is what the country's selectors are backing.

With today (June 21, Thursday) being the deadline to announce the team for Olympics, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) will reveal its final team in the afternoon.

On Wednesday, Paes sent a letter to AITA, threatening to withdraw if he was forced to play with a junior player. With Bhupathi and Bopanna stating they would like to go to the Games together as one team and not partner Paes, it has put Indian tennis in crisis.

Paes, being the top-ranked doubles player in the country, has a direct entry to London. He has the choice to pick his partner. It would be unfair for him to play with a far lesser ranked player which might hamper India's chances.

Paes and Bhupathi, first went together to Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta. They were knocked out in the second round, losing to Australian pair of Todd Woodbridge and Martin Woodforde.

At the time, Paes was a 23-year-old and Bhupathi one year younger to his partner. Paes had made his Olympic debut as a teenager (19), pairing with Ramesh Krishnan in 1992 in Barcelona. They went till the last eight stage.

Since 1996, Lee-Hesh have gone to each edition of the Olympics. Their best result came at Athens 2004 where they lost the bronze medal match to Croatian combination, Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic.

Paes is now 39 and Bhupathi, 38. India's best chance of a medal could be with this pair. This could also be both players' final Olympics. Both need to come together for one final time.

What the "Indian Express" could not do in four attempts, could be realised in their farewell Games. But we will soon know whether they are separated are not.

One of them could also miss out that flight to London, if AITA has its say of sending only one team.

If Paes is paired with a junior player, the options are of Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri and Jagadeesan Vishnuvardhan.

Paes, who hails from a rich sporting family background, has already said he is not willing to go with a junior player.

Even if AITA decides to put Paes with a youngster, Devvarman is the best bet. He is currently one of the brightest Indian talents. On Thursday, he declared himself fit, after having undergone a shoulder surgery in January. The 27-year-old is ranked 240 in singles.

All said and done, there is no better combination in the country than Paes and Bhupathi. Hope better sense prevails.

India's Doubles Performances in Olympics (Best: Semi-finals in 2004 Athens)

(Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi played together in four Olympics. Paes has five, teamed with Ramesh Krishnan for 1992 Barcelona Games)

2008 Beijing Olympics: Quarterfinals: Lost to Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland) 2-6, 4-6.

2004 Athens Olympics: Semi-finals: Lost the bronze medal match to Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic (Croatia) 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 14-16.

2000 Sydney Olympics: Second Round: Lost to Todd Woodbridge and Martin Woodforde (Australia) 3-6, 6-7 (1/7).

1996 Atlanta Olympics: Second Round: Lost to Todd Woodbridge and Martin Woodforde (Australia) 6-4, 2-6, 2-6.

1992 Barcelona Olympics: Quarter-finals: Leander Paes played with Ramesh Krishnan. Lost to Goran Ivanisevic and Goran Prpic (Croatia) 6-7 (3/7), 7-5, 4-6, 3-6.

OneIndia News

Story first published: Thursday, June 21, 2012, 12:58 [IST]
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