India's tennis medal hopes at the Rio Olympics have been thrown into a tizzy as veteran Leander Paes has gone AWOL, two days before the start of the 2016 edition of the Summer Olympic Games.
The Olympics begin on 5 August and India's doubles team of Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes have gone through their fair share of troubles. It was assumed that after Bopanna's request of wanting Saketh Myneni as his partner was shot down, he and Paes would make an attempt at mending fences and performing at their best for India at the Olympics.
But now the Indian team in Rio have confirmed that Paes has yet to show up in the host city, as reported by News18. They have sent pictures of Bopanna training with Nenad Zimonjic and Max Mirnyi in a attempt to gain fitness before his first doubles match, which could take place on 6 August.
Bopanna confirmed the reports of him practicing with players of other countries and said, "I came in yesterday and I had a good hit with Sania (Mirza) and then today Zimonic also... Since I was here early I decided to practice with him and get a few sessions in there."
When asked where his partner Paes was and if he was expected anytime soon Bopanna gave a smile and said, "That’s what I’ve heard."
There have also been allegations that Paes has refused to share a room or stay in the same flat as Bopanna and had informed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
India's non-playing captain Zeeshan Ali took Bopanna's side in the case and told News18, "I feel a little sad for Rohan. You know from obviously playing. This is one of the toughest tournaments in the world and we are having to find people, he’s having to go around asking people to practice with."
Paes' whereabouts were unknown to the Indian captain as well as he said,"Unfortunately he hasn’t showed up as of yet. I’m pretty much in the dark as to where he is and when he is coming."
But not all of the concerned were worried as it turns out that Leander Paes has actually received clearance to come late and was scheduled to arrive on the evening of 4 August in Rio.
All India Tennis Association (AITA) CEO Hiranmoy Chatterjee has come out in the favour of Leander Paes and said to Sportskeeda, “These particular rumours are baseless, Leander had informed us that he had prior commitments and he will be reaching Rio today. We were aware throughout that he will be coming late, whether it affects the team or not is a separate issue."
When asked about the issue of sharing a flat with Bopanna, he added, “Him not sharing a room with Bopanna is something that is something we are not aware of yet. We had spoken to him a few days earlier, to confirm his accommodation as well. Whether he changes his mind once he reaches Rio is a separate issue. He was supposed to come on 1 August, but he clarified it with us.”
According to ESPN, there have been reports that Paes and Bopanna were asked to reach Rio on 1 August to get adequate time to practice ahead of the Olympics. This was after a discussion with both players after the Davis Cup tie with South Korea in Chandigarh.
Former tennis player Enrico Piperno told News18, “I mentioned that I was pretty puzzled with the fact that Bopana and Paes hadn’t even played a single tournament leading up to the Olympics. They knew in June that they were going to play together.”
He then went onto say, “To add to that Leander is a no-show and Bopanna has to practice without a player is incredibly crazy and bizarre and he should have been the first guy there.”
Leander's father, Vece Paes, a former Indian hockey player and Olympic medal winner said, “Leander has already left for Brazil and he will be reaching Rio on August 4 evening. Regarding the accommodation I’m not in the space to comment about it. However, I can tell you that he will be reaching in the evening."
Before Rio 2016, Paes warmed up for the Olympics by winning the World Team Tennis title for his team Washington Kastles on Sunday.