Tennis should not suffer, says Paes

Indian veteran feels that row between players and AITA has hurt the game

The controversy surrounding the Indian team ahead of the Davis Cup tie against South Korea didn’t seem to cast its shadows on the new bunch, headed by doubles exponent Leander Paes.

 The four-member group frequently cracked up and made light of things even as Paes, for the first time, voiced his opinion over the standoff between the top players and the AITA, stressing that rebellion is never a solution.

Paes said he had a lengthy chat with Somdev Devvarman and the younger players during the Australian Open before adding that some of the juniors wanted to make themselves available for selection.

The top 11 Indian players, barring Paes, boycotted the tie over AITA not meeting their demands to improve tennis in the country to their satisfaction. As a result, India is fielding a weaker side comprising Ranjeet Virali Murugesan, Vijayant Malik and Purav Raja as Paes’ doubles partner.

 “I had a long chat with Somdev over the issue and what is good for his career. He is a great kid and hardworking boy. I also spoke to a couple of junior players. Some of them asked for a chance to be selected,” Paes told reporters on Wednesday.

The doubles exponent opined that sport was bigger than everyone and should not suffer. "I personally don't believe that rebellion is important. But communication should always be an option. Game is bigger than all of us,” Paes told reporters here on Wednesday.

 “We are all aware that battles are there to be fought but the the essence of, for what we are here for, it should not be lost. And that is what's being lost. Tennis should not suffer, country should not suffer. And that is what has happened here. It is not cool.”

Paes insisted that never in his career he delved over the selection matters and that he had played for the country’s flag.

“My partners were switched around in last 12 months but I have never delved into selection even when I was the captain. I play for the flag and my people. I am very proud and respectful of the guys sitting beside me,” he said pointing to his team members.

“Results come and go. We are here to build and nurture a team that can do well. What is important is that players put country before self. Right now we have a big job at hand.”

Paes wasn’t too bothered that they were the underdogs for the home tie, saying strange things could happen in Davis Cup.

"It's been many times in the past that we have been the underdogs at home. The good thing is that it takes off all the pressure. In my 24 years in Davis Cup, there were only a few ties where we were not the underdogs-- it was America and Croatia here (Delhi) and when we played Holland in Jaipur,” he said.

"If you look at India's past in Davis Cup, it's phenomenal what we have done.” Paes, though, admitted it to be a tough tie.

“I have played Koreans in the past and it is a tough team to play. They are a resilient lot. We will do our homework and put our best foot forward,” he said.

Captain SP Misra felt the enthusiasm in the boys can make up for their lack of experience. “Playing a live Davis Cup rubber in a five-setter is not something that happens everyday. They are learning fast and something good will come out of it.”

South Koran coach Yong-Il Yoon said while they would like to make the most of the depleted Indian side, they would not take them lightly because of their familiarity with home conditions.

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