E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Mahesh Bhupathi has openly refused to play ball with Leander Paes in the forthcoming Olympics. Mahesh and his chosen partner Rohan Bopanna have written to all India tennis association (AITA) that they would like to be paired together for the event.
Anil Khanna, AITA general secretary, has not taken kindly to this salvo, and has asked Bhupathi to play doubles with Leander Paes, or else he will be sacked.
The Paes-Bhupathi duo, once famous as ‘Indian Express’ has been reduced to a ‘C’ grade Bollywood movie with vendetta written all over. The seemingly ‘he loves me he loves me-not’ syndrome between them has all but driven the charm out of the famous doubles combination of the game.
It’s surprising they reunited thrice, each time having quarreled for reasons not spelt out.
AITA has not been able to broker a lasting peace between the two nor the past greats like Ramesh Krishnan or Vijay Amrithraj. Their love-hate circus, which they practice amidst,’ love all’ when they start a match is at once amusing, baffling and a trifle sad.
To be sure, most top tennis players concentrate only on singles, except for a rare John McEnroe, and doubles is generally left for lesser-known players. None of the Indian players have been able to break into the top 100 ranking except for a brief while by Somdev. It is in doubles and mixed doubles India has been able to make a mark.
This vendetta will be played again when selectors sit down to select India’s mixed doubles combination. Mahesh and Sania Mirza Malik having just won French Open would obviously like to play but whether AITA will allow this remains to be seen.
Isn’t it better AITA send a young combination of Bopanna and Yuki Bhambri (in place of injured Somdev) to represent India instead of the warring, sparring veterans and send out a lesson too?
Medals are important but not when the players display immense hatred in public. What good will it serve future of Tennis in India and what lesson it will have on budding youngsters even if they win a medal?
Also read: Revealed: How the Paes-Bhupathi split began