NEW DELHI: The Indian tennis association bowed to the wishes of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna on Thursday, allowing to the two Bangaloreans to play as a team in the London Olympics while pairing Leander Paes with 206th-ranked Vishnu Vardhan.
As an incentive for him to agree to the compromise formula, Paes was assured that he would partner Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles.
However, Paes is likely to reject the proposal and withdraw from the Games, which would have been a record sixth Olympics for him. The 1996 Olympic bronze medallist had told the association he would be forced to withdraw if he was asked to pair with a junior player.
Thursday was the last date for sending entries to the London Olympics. Sania can play in the mixed doubles only she gets a wild card for the singles or doubles events in the Games.
The tennis association (AITA), which had originally announced only one team – Paes and Bhupathi – clearly succumbed to the pressure of the Bangalore pair as well as the sports ministry and possibly the association’s lifetime honorary president, external affairs minister S M Krishna who also hails from Bangalore.
“The decision might not be fair, but it is in the best interest of the country. We’ll do our best to plead with Leander to accept this decision. It is definitely a calculated risk that we have taken,” AITA president Anil Khanna said on Thursday.
Bhupathi and Bopanna were elated with AITA’s decision. “We are delighted to have been nominated as a team to the men’s doubles event at the Games.
The association is also hoping that Sania gets a wild card on June 28, so that she can compete in women’s doubles as well with Rushmi Chakravarthy. “Leander and Sania are the only confirmed entry in the mixed doubles with a combined ranking of 19.
Sania has said after the French Open that she’ll prefer to play with Bhupathi but will not object to playing with anyone selected by AITA,” Khanna added.
According to sources, Paes had sought a written assurance from Sania that she’ll partner him in the Olympics. Paes’ father Vece too hinted that his son might pull out of the Olympics.