A clear picture on Leander Paes’ participation at the London Olympics is unlikely to emerge before June 28, when ITF will reveal whether Sania Mirza has been given a wild card.
Despite Paes’ reservations, All India Tennis Association (AITA) had partnered him with 206th ranked Vishnu Vardhan for the men’s doubles but he was assured of a pairing with Sania for the mixed doubles event.
The AITA was forced to give in to the demand of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna that they be sent as a team to London after initially selecting Paes and Bhupathi as the lone Indian entry.
Sania, on the back of her recent French Open victory, is likely to get a wild card entry either in the singles or the women’s doubles draw with Rushmi Chakravarthy.
In case she does not get it, Paes’ chances of winning a medal at Olympics will diminish since his combination with Vardhan may not survive long in the tough men’s doubles field.
So, if Sania misses out on getting a wild card entry, Paes may decide against competing in the Games as realistically he stands a medal chance only in mixed doubles.
AITA had made the team announcement on Thursday but Paes has not yet made it clear if he will carry out his boycott threat or will accept the compromise deal.
“So he perhaps is waiting for June 28 before revealing what he intends to do,” according an AITA source.
However, if Paes plays, he will achieve a rare distinction of becoming the only Indian to compete in six Olympics. He along with shooters Karni Singh and Randhir Singh have competed in five Olympics so far.
AITA’s senior selector Rohit Rajpal is in London to persuade Paes to accept the team combination and make it public. All the top Indian players are currently in London to participate in Wimbledon championships, starting Monday.
Although Sania has not responded to the team selection so far but she had said that her preferred partner is Bhupathi, with whom she won French Open early this month. Sania may react only after getting a wild card but it has been learnt that she will not refuse to play with Paes like Bhupathi and Bopanna.
Sania though firmly believes that she stands a good medal chance by playing alongside Bhupathi. The two have won two Grand Slam titles together and are eyeing a third one when they play at Wimbledon.
Sania’s view is that her forehand game suits more to Bhupathi’s strong backhand game. Paes is also a strong forehand player, so she thinks her partnership with Bhupathi is likely to produce a better result.
Paes and Sania had played at 2010 Commonwealth Games together but lost in the quarter-finals to a lower-ranked Scottish team.