Sania joins the pull-out brigade

Paes, Bopanna confirm their absence from Incheon citing tour commitments

Sania joins the pull-out brigade

India's top doubles tennis players Leander Paes, Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna have all pulled out of the Incheon Asian Games, delivering a heavy blow to the country’s medal chances.

Top singles player Somdev Devvarman had already pulled out of the event, citing professional compulsions. The rest of them also excused themselves from national duty saying they needed to protect their rankings.

The depleted field is likely to affect India's chances in the continental championships where tennis fetched five medals for the country in the previous edition. Also, the last-minute pull-out by the star players means that there is no time to name the replacements in the men’s team. In women’s, reserve Snehadevi Reddy will step in for Sania.

Doubts over the participation of these players were doing rounds for days but it was only after the government clearance of the Asian Games contingent on Tuesday that the AITA chose to confirm their unavailability. A timely pull-out may have helped government giving go ahead to athletes from some other disciplines while pruning the contingent.
AITA President Anil Khanna in a statement said: “In respect of Asian Games 2014, special circumstances have developed where it is necessary for the players to participate in ATP and WTA events to protect their rankings and give the additional push to qualify for the year-end World Masters to be held in London for men and Singapore for women.
“Considering the very significant and important requirement of the players, the AITA has decided to respect their requests and allow them to play the ATP/WTA tournaments so that they can have a respectable opportunity to represent the nation in the World Championships to be held at the end of the year.”

In Bangalore, both Leander and Bopanna confirmed the news. "I have represented my country for 24 plus years and I will continue to do so but I do need some job security in terms of rankings for next year and the tournaments in Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo become very important for me," Paes said. "This (playing on the Tour) is my bread and butter and because the dates are clashing with a few tournaments...." Paes said.
Bopanna echoed similar sentiments. "Like Leander said, these tournaments are very important for the Asian players. In Tokyo, I'm the defending champion and there are other tournaments that are important," he explained.

Leander's ranking has dropped from 6th to 36th after he failed to protect his ranking points in the 2013 US Open. He wanted to participate in the remaining three Asian Tournaments to bolster his rankings. Sania along with her partner Cara Black is in the race for the 2014 Championship at Singapore and preferred to take part in the two Asian events coinciding with the September 19-October 4 mega event as she also has 1900 ranking points she won in 2013 to protect.

Bopanna, too, would be defending points in Tokyo which he had won in 2013.
"All I can say that this is really unfortunate. We were not told about the AITA that these players will be skipping the Asian Games. We don't event know the reasons of their pullouts," a top sports ministry official told Deccan Herald.

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