| NEW DELHI, June 18
NEW DELHI, June 18 Indian tennis federation is
struggling to find an Olympic partner for Leander Paes after
Rohan Bopanna joined Mahesh Bhupathi on Monday in refusing to
team up with the country's number one doubles specialist in
"Over the weekend, I was approached by the AITA (All India
Tennis Association) with a request to pair with Leander Paes as
the AITA's 'second choice' team," Bopanna said in a statement.
"With all respect and humility, I have been unable to accept
AITA's offer and have communicated my decision to them in
writing this morning," he said.
Bhupathi, who has threatened to skip the Games rather then
partnering Paes, and Bopanna maintain they have qualified for
London as a partnership based on their rankings and should not
AITA must find another partner for Paes, whose top-10
ranking gives him direct entry, they say.
"Since the beginning of the year, I have partnered with
Mahesh Bhupathi towards playing together as a team at the
Olympics. This was communicated to the AITA at every step and we
were encouraged to continue to play together," Bopanna said.
"Having played alongside Leander Paes only twice during my
career, I recognise that as a team we are underprepared for the
demands of the Olympics and ... I could not accept AITA's offer
that we play together," he added.
The pressure on AITA increased with sports minister Ajay
Maken also questioning the logic behind fielding one team in
"We can send 2 teams, why send 1?" Maken wrote on his
Twitter page on Monday.
There is also uncertainty over which mixed doubles team
India will field in London. Sania Mirza and Bhupathi won the
French Open mixed title earlier this month but so far it has yet
to be confirmed who will partner Mirza in London.
"Hidden question is on who should pair Sania? Why disturb
victorious grand slam mixed double pair?" Maken asked.
AITA chief Anil Khanna, who maintained that India's best
chance of winning a tennis medal in London was through the
Paes-Bhupathi partnership, was not available for comment.
Paes has said he was ready to team up with whoever AITA
Winner of the singles bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics,
Paes joined hands with Bhupathi to form a formidable partnership
in the late 1990s, winning three grand slams.
However, the ageing duo are not even on speaking terms after
a second acrimonious split last year.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)