M A I N   N E W S

Paes to partner rookie Vishnu; Sania in mixed doubles
M.S. Unnikrishnan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 21
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) took the “middle path” when it selected Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna as one team for the men’s doubles while Leander Paes will partner rookie Vishnu Vardhan in the second team for the London Olympics tennis events.

But the AITA has compensated him for pairing him with a rookie player like Vishnu Vardhan - he’ll team up with Sania Mirza for the mixed doubles. And if Sania gets a wild card for the doubles, then Rushmi Chakravarthi will pair up with her. If all the six players get to play in the Olympics, as the AITA has planned, then India will be fielding its largest tennis contingent for an Olympic Games, and three players — Bopanna, Vardhan and Rushmi -- will be making their Olympics debut. Khanna said efforts would also be made to get Somdev Devvarman a wild card for the men’s singles, though presently he is nursing an injury and his case would be pursued if he gets fit for the Olympics.

“We have taken a middle path. We have done justice to all, though we cannot say we have done 100 per cent right. But this is what we could do under the prevailing circumstances,” AITA president Anil Khanna said after announcing the team at here today.

He said he would have to convince Paes to accept the formula worked out by the AITA, and he was confident of persuading the iconic player to play in the Olympics.

“AITA agrees the decision is unfair to the India No. 1 and World No. 7. AITA holds Leander in high esteem and appeals to him to accept this decision in the best interest of the nation. We are confident Leander will not disappoint us. He’s done yeoman’s service to the nation over the last 25 years,” said Anil Khanna.

“The AITA now requests Leander to forgive utterances of the last few days of some persons which were based only on half-truths. We are confident that all of us will join hands in requesting Leander to reverse his thoughts and help Rohan Bopanna and Vishnu Vardhan have a lifetime opportunity to play in their first Olympics,” Khanna added.

In a message from London, Bhupathi and Bopanna said they were “delighted to have been nominated as a team” for the Olympics. “We are excited that we will be playing together at the Olympics and our sole focus is now on our team’s preparations for the Games,” they said. “The events of the last few days have been extremely challenging for all concerned, but we respect them as necessary steps in this process. In making each of our decisions, we were guided by our strong convictions regarding what we believed was fair and we are pleased that this is reflected in the outcome. We are greatly appreciative of the support we have received from across the world,” their statement read.





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