Following Leander Paes' comments on India's mixed doubles pairing at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the already murky world of tennis doubles in India got even murkier with some mutual mud-slinging.
During the Davis Cup tie between India and Spain in New Delhi, Paes brought up the issue of missing out on a medal in the mixed doubles event at the recently concluded Rio Games.
"I can very clearly say that in this Olympics and the last Olympics we didn't put the best team forward. This Olympics the mixed doubles was a great opportunity. What more does a man need to do than win four Grand Slams in 14 months," Paes said referring to his successful mixed doubles run in the lead up to the Games.
"There were no more tournaments to win, I could not create anymore tournaments. Sad. Long story short, let's nurture these kids," Paes added.
Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna had been picked to represent India at the Games and the duo reached the semifinals stage, before going down in the bronze medal playoff.
To nobody's surprise, Paes' comments have been publicly and vociferously slammed by Sania and Bopanna. Both the tennis players took to Twitter to take a dig at Paes, without actually naming him.
Sania's tweet referred to playing with a "toxic person", which was retweeted by Bopanna, who went on to take a not-so-subtle dig at Paes himself, saying that people want "to stay in the news by slanging fellow players in media'.
Their tweets also featured some interesting hashtags, such as: #karmaiswatching #zenmode and #patriotism. It was clear that they wouldn't take Paes' attack lying down.
— Sania Mirza (@MirzaSania) September 18, 2016
At it again!! ...the usual ploy to stay in the news by slanging fellow players in media. #Patriotism
— Rohan Bopanna (@rohanbopanna) September 18, 2016
This isn't the first time that the Paes vs Bopanna/Sania cold war has dominated the headlines.
Even before the Rio Games, controversy surrounded the partnering of Paes and Bopanna for the mens doubles event.
Bopanna, among the top 10 ranked players in the world in men's doubles, had earned a direct entry to the Games, while Paes did not.
Bopanna had written a letter to the All India Tennis Association (AITA) asking to be paired with the much lower ranked Saketh Myneni instead of Paes. AITA, however, chose Paes as Bopanna's doubles partner.
Ahead of their first match, the pairing courted further controversy when there were reports of Paes' delayed arrival to Rio, which gave them virtually no time to practice. Paes-Bopanna's campaign ended in the first round with a 4-6, 6-7 loss to Poland's Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski.
Sania and Paes' problems go further back, right to the 2012 London Olympics. When Mahesh Bhupathi and Bopanna has refused to partner with Paes in the doubles back then, Sania was forced by the AITA to team up with him for the mixed doubles event.
This time, the women's doubles world number one had categorically stated that she will choose her own partner for the Olympics and paired up with Bopanna. The Indian pair reached the bronze medal playoff match, but just fell short of a medal.
With Paes' latest comments, it seems like the bad blood of the last two Olympics is here to stay in Indian tennis.
First Published On : Sep 19, 2016 14:01 IST