If Mahesh Bhupathi’s father, Krishna, is to be believed, his son is so well prepared to play the Olympics with Rohan Bopanna, that he would reject even a player of Roger Federer‘s calibre.
“They (Bhupathi-Bopanna) are a team, they want to play. If they’re not selected, they can’t play. I can talk for Mahesh, he has not prepared himself with any other player. If he’s given Roger Federer, he’s not prepared to play with Roger Federer, because he’s not prepared himself,” CGK Bhupathi told CNN-IBN.
Earlier in the day, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) backed Leander Paes in his spat against Bhupathi and Bopanna and sent a detailed reply to the Sports Ministry on the issue.
Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken tweeted yesterday questioning the AITA’s decision to send just one team to the Olympics when the rules allowed for two.
The ministry intervened after Mahesh Bhupathi wrote to Maken, saying that AITA’s decision has “surprised” and “bemused” him as he was paired with Paes despite his reluctance.
The ministry, in turn, shot off a six-point letter to the AITA President Anil Khanna and sought explanation by today afternoon.
Citing the fact that both Bhupathi and Bopanna had officially declined to partner Leander Paes, the Ministry asked, “With two days left for the deadline, wouldn’t AITA be sending Paes with a youngster to represent India at London Olympics.”
In reply, the AITA hit back with a strongly-worded letter today and said that sending Paes, who is ranked seventh in the world and is India’s highest ranked doubles player, to the Olympics with a lower-ranked player like Yuki Bhambri or Somdev Devvarman, who has declared himself fit for Wimbledon, would be a waste.
“It would be meaningless to send Leander with a junior player who has not played Grand Slam. Leander being the best player must be paired with either Rohan Bopanna or Mahesh Bhupathi,” said the letter.
According to letter, ITF rules state the top-ranked player is automatically entitled to play in the Olympics with a player of his choice. But with Bhupathi (ranked 14th) and Bopanna (ranked 12th) refusing to play with Paes, the problem refuses to die down.
Lashing out at both Bhupathi and Bopanna, AITA said, “it should be understood that two players cannot make a pact with each other to keep the number one player out and publicly suggest in media that No.1 player should go to Olympics with No.5.”
The AITA also listed out the five options that they have to resolve the issue. The options are listed below:
Option 1 : Ask players to follow original decision
Option 2: Ask Bopanna to play with Paes
Option 3: Ask Paes to play with lower rank player
Option 4: Bopanna, Bhupathi play; Paes misses out
Option 5: Disciplinary action against Bhupathi and Bopanna
So while the AITA is coming out and revealing the options that lie in front of them, they have still refused to take a decision. Either way, the impasse for now continues.
Meanwhile, Leander’s father Vece has said, “Leander will play with whoever AITA says, even though this is unfair.”