Leander Paes is easily the biggest tennis superstar that India has ever produced and his records and versatility speak for themselves. However the likes of Mahesh Bupathi and Rohan Bopanna have not been very keen to partner with Paes in the mens doubles to represent the country in key events such as the Olympics.
The 42 year old Paes had expressed his interest to team up with Bopanna at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and represent his country in what would most likely be his final appearance in the Olympics. Bopanna who is in the top 10 of mens doubles rankings had a choice in deciding who he wanted to partner with and his decision surprised many as Bopanna decided that he wanted to team up with Saketh Myneni.
In a statement, Bopanna said “I have much admiration for Leander Paes and his many achievements but I do not believe our styles of play are either compatible or complementary. Considering that this is a team event where two individuals need to gel together to do well, regardless of individual achievements, it is the team and the combination that matters”
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) selection committee led by Davis Cup captain S.P. Misra met on 11th June to make a final decision on the players who would represent India at Rio 2016. The AITA decided to overrule Bopanna’s decision and asked him to team up with Leander Paes as they believed that this was the best combination that would give India a shot at a gold medal.
Bopanna released another statement after the AITA made its decision and stated that he respected the decision of the committee and looked forward to playing in Rio. The fact that Bopanna did not want to play with Paes in the first place could make it awkward for the veteran Paes but the two will have to put their differences aside and play their best tennis if they are to add to India’s medal tally.
The AITA also asked Bopanna and Paes to team up for a Davis Cup men’s doubles match next month against South Korea. The AITA hopes that the two players will be able to gel as a team and work out their differences before the Olympics. The AITA has also chosen Bopanna to team up with Sania Mirza and represent India in the mixed doubles event.