AITA firm on its decision
Bhupathi needs to be a little more mature, says President Khanna
A day after Mahesh Bhupathi hit out at the All India Tennis Association’s decision to field him along with Leander Paes as India’s lone entry in men’s double competition of the Olympics, the association hardned its position asking the Bangalore pro to either fall in line or face the axe.
Speaking after being elected the President of the AITA at its AGM here on Saturday, Anil Khanna asserted that there was no rethinking with regard to team’s combination.
Asking Bhupathi to be a ‘little more mature’, Khanna said the ‘pressure tactics’ (airing opinions in the media) weren’t going to work.
“If you expect that by putting pressure, the AITA would buckle under (it) and not send Leander with either No 2 or No 3 player, then it’s not going to happen. It will be Leander-Mahesh and if Mahesh does not want to participate, then it could be Leander-Rohan then.
After the selectors ignored his request to pair him with Rohan Bopanna, Bhupathi lambasted the AITA and referred to Paes as a ‘backstabber.’
Even as Khanna did the tough talking, the AITA was trying to get Bhupathi on the same page through dialogues. It’s learnt that selector Rohit Rajpal has been entrusted with the job to convince the players to comply with the AITA’s decision.
Khanna didn’t deny backchannel negotiations. “Rohit is friends with both Mahesh and Leander. They have also respect and bonding with the other selectors. So, they will talk to all of them and there will be a solution soon.”
Maintaining that India could win a medal only with Paes, Khanna said Bhupathi’s wasn’t an automatic selection. “The difficulty was in selecting either Mahesh or Bopanna. We asked for Paes’ preference but the selectors went by what they felt was the best team.
We deliberated for one and half hours on Rohan. He is a younger player and is fitter and is good on grass with his serves. But eventually we decided that Mahesh is a good player at this level. With all the good players playing at the Olympics we felt Mahesh's maturity would be required.”
While expressing confidence that Bhupathi will eventually agree to play with Paes, Khanna said the problem with the former was his committment to Bopanna.
“He has good friendship with Rohan and has committed to him. I think there is an over-commitment from Rohan and Mahesh to each other. We appreciate their friendship, and to get out of this commitment is also not easy but they have to realise that nation comes much before commitment. They have to sacrifice certain things to play for the nation,” he observed.
Khanna also clarified that he never said the players would have to return the money for training ($6000 a month) if they refuse to play. “I did not say that they should return the $6000 or AITA will force them to return the money to the government. I said it's not right not to play in the Olympics when the government has already granted the money in preparation for the games. The government will also be expecting them to play in the Olympics.”