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Double trouble for Indian tennis: Blame it on players

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During best of the times, Lee-Hesh
Bangalore, Jun 18: Indian tennis is in crisis, thanks to personal clashes between the country's top players. Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna have threatened to derail Indian chances of a medal at the London Olympics.

All Indian Tennis Association's (AITA) decision to pair Leander Paes and Bhupathi together for the Games has not been accepted by the latter.

In a series of email exchanges with AITA, Bhupathi had indicated his willingness to be considered to play with Bopanna, rather than his former partner Paes. But AITA selectors chose to put Paes and Bhupathi as one team for London trip.

Bhupathi, owing to long-standing differences with Paes, has defied AITA. On Monday, Bopanna too went Bhupathi's way. He too refused to play with Paes.

"I have told them I will not partner Leander Paes. I have told them I am not available if they don't pick me with Rohan. We have been hoping all year since we decided to partner together that we were going to represent India at the Olympics. The decision taken today did not go in our favour so we are going to try and hope that something changes," Bhupathi told Reuters news agency in London on Saturday.

After all these unsavoury developments over the past few days, one needs to ask a basic question to the two players. Is it right for the experienced Bhupathi to go against the selectors? Is self above the country?

Paes and Bhupathi are the most successful doubles players India has seen. Paes has won seven doubles Grand Slam titles. Together, they have claimed two French Opens and one Wimbledon.

Bhupathi has four Grand Slam doubles. Lee-Hesh, as they are known, can do wonders in London if they leave their egos and personal differences outside the tennis court. But Bhupathi has given his own reasons for refusal.

Whatever the reasons, fans would have loved to see "Indian Express" flying the tri-colour in England. During last Olympics, in 2008, they went till the quarter-finals in Beijing before losing to eventual champions, Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland). Paes is the only Indian tennis player to have won a bronze medal at Olympics. He achieved this feat in Atlanta in 1996.

They had reunited in 2011 for a Grand Slam after nine years. Lee-Hesh finished runners-up then at the Australian Open.

"With all respect and humility, I have been unable to accept AITA's offer and have communicated my decision to them in writing this morning," Bopanna said in a statement on Monday.

"Since the beginning of the year, I have partnered with Mahesh Bhupathi towards playing together as at team at the Olympics. This was communicated to the AITA at every step and we were encouraged to continue to play together. Having played alongside Leander Paes only twice during my career, I recognise that as a team we are under-prepared for the demands of the Olympics and, in good faith, I could not accept AITA's offer that we play together."

Fans in the country are left confused now. Has AITA lost its powers? How can the players dictate to the official body of tennis in India. What is AITA's job?

In this scenario, it would be best for AITA officials to bring Paes and Bhupathi together and help them sort the past issues out. So far, nobody is willing to do this. Do they really care for India?

Even though tennis is an individual sport, events like Olympics is a platform for India to play together as a team. What AITA selectors have decided, the team and players should adhere to the decisions.

It would be interesting to see whether AITA takes any action of Bhupathi and Bopanna for their stands.

With time running out, in the best interests of India, let us end this soon. Hope Bhupathi joins forces with Paes and bring a medal home.

OneIndia News

Story first published: Monday, June 18, 2012, 17:48 [IST]
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