Bopanna agrees to partner Paes

Bopanna agrees to partner Paes

Bengalurean to pair up with Sania in mixed doubles at Olympics

Bopanna agrees to partner Paes

Leander Paes will be partnering Rohan Bopanna in his seventh Olympics after the All India Tennis Association (AITA) selection committee picked the 18 times Grand Slam winner over Saketh Myneni on Saturday.

The AITA selection committee meeting, chaired by Davis Cupper SP Misra, said it “respected” the choice of Bopanna but felt Paes would be the be ideal partner for the 36-year-old Bengaluru ace in the upcoming Rio Games. Bopanna, later in a statement, accepted the decision of the selection committee, thus putting to rest a brewing storm.

“The AITA Selection Committee has now made its decision after due consideration of my representation and has selected the team for the Olympics. I respect this decision and look forward to participating in Rio,” he said.

Paes, too, fired a tweet shortly after the selection. “Thank you everyone for your support. I am humbled. It’s an honour to represent the nation at the Rio Olympics.”

With bonding between Bopanna and Paes becoming a sticky issue, the AITA departed from its existing policy to announce a seven-member team for India’s Davis Cup tie against South Korea at Chandigarh from July 15-17. The idea is to make the two play together and get some chemistry going ahead of the Rio Games.

“Their combined ranking would anyways make it tough for them get an entry into the Grand Slams or Masters events. We hope playing in Davis Cup will help them reach to an understanding,” remarked one of the selectors.

Yuki Bhambri, Myneni, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal,  Vishnu Vardhan are other members named in the squad. The cut-off to name the final team is July 5.

The rest of the Olympic selection went on the expected lines. Bopanna will have another shot at the Olympic medal by partnering Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles. In the women’s doubles, Sania would be partnering the second best Indian women in doubles Prathana Thombare, ranked 209.

In the long winding meeting, the selection committee discussed Bopanna’s letter, where he had stated his preference in world no. 125 Myneni as his men’s doubles partner in Rio. The results of Bopanna partnering both Paes and Myneni were also discussed.  The members of the selection committee also noted the fact that since Paes had made the men’s doubles quarterfinals of Roland Garros, he and Bopanna would have got direct entry in Olympics on the basis of their combined ranking.

“Rohan has written a well-meaning letter to the AITA and given reasons why he feels Saketh will be a better choice. But he has also made it clear that he wants to play for the nation,” said AITA president Anil Khanna.

“We have the highest respect for all the players. We want them to play at the optimum level while representing the nation. Saketh is a wonderful player, he will be representing India in Davis Cup for many years but we feel for the Rio Games it is Paes and Bopanna who would be our best bet at Olympics.”

The AITA also acknowledged the achievement of Paes winning his 10th mixed doubles trophy and completing a career Slam at Roland Garros last week. However, on the basis of rankings on June 6, and court combination, it decided to nominate Bopanna and Sania as the mixed doubles pairing from India. Sania, too, had given Bopanna as her preference.

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