Paes threatens boycott
‘It would not be acceptable to partner a player ranked 207 or 306’
The Olympic tennis team selection continued to be an unsolved puzzle on Wednesday with the All India Tennis Association (AITA) failing to persuade the feuding players to change their stand and Leander Paes threatening a Games' boycott if he were to be paired with a lower-ranked player.
The team will now be announced by Thursday afternoon, which is also the last day of sending the entries to the International Tennis Federation. The top brass of the AITA has been locked in marathon meetings since Tuesday but the deadlock continued.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, who is also life-president of the AITA, appealed to the players on Wednesday to rise above their differences. Mahesh Bhupathi had written to Krishna on the crisis.
“They should forget their personal differences and play for the country. Players should not compromise on national interest," Krishna said. He also asked AITA president Anil Khanna to meet the players personally and resolve the issue immediately.
Sources said that AITA had softened its stand in the morning. It suggested Paes the option of teaming up with a junior player and even pairing up with Sania Mirza for the mixed doubles. Paes, though, refused to budge.
Later in the day he wrote a letter to AITA general-secretary Bharat Oza saying, being the No 1 player, he would not accept pairing up with a junior player.
“I am comfortable to partner Mahesh or Rohan for the forthcoming Olympics. If Mahesh or Rohan refuse to play with me for our country, then I am happy to play with the next best player that the AITA decides on,” Paes stated.
“However, it would not be acceptable, if with my ranking as the best Indian tennis player, I give up the best option of partner for winning a medal for my country and am made to play the Olympics with a player ranked 207/306 in the world while the No 13 and No 15 ranked players form another team together based on their refusal to play with me.
“If this is the case then for the sake of Indian tennis and to relieve the AITA in regards to the selection of the team, I have no other option but to withdraw from the Olympics.”
He said he has not taken the decision with “rancour”.
“This decision is not taken lightly and with any rancour. We cannot be condoning or rewarding the drama enacted by Mahesh and Rohan. This would be a bad precedent for current and future sportspersons (particularly tennis players) in our country.”
Paes said he and Sania can get a direct entry in the mixed doubles in Olympics. “I would also bring to your notice that Sania and I, by virtue of our combined ranking of No 19, have got a direct entry in the mixed doubles at the Olympics.”
He also stressed on his right to choose a partner. “I have been ATP ranked at No 1 in the world as a team and No 7 in the world individually, for the first six months of 2012. By virtue of this I have got a direct entry into the men’s doubles at the Olympics with the right to choose my partner.”
With Paes’ threat to pull out, the drama continues…