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Rohan Bopanna caught in crossfire between AITA, Mahesh Bhupathi, and Leander Paes

Two weeks, four reasons, and not one that makes real sense. In short, that is the narrative surrounding the exclusion of Rohan Bopanna from the Davis Cup tie against New Zealand in February.

AITA would have done far better if they remained mum, rather than constantly suck at their toes, every time they shuffle their jaws. It is sad that Indian tennis and its protagonists – both players and administrators – remain stuck in a perpetual loop of innuendo. In this case, even though Bopanna is justifiably miffed at the treatment meted to him, it is Indian tennis that might pay the ultimate price.

Rohan Bopanna. AFP

Rohan Bopanna. AFP

The reasons have come thick and fast – preference of position, combination, and opportunity for Leander Paes are some of them – before the cat finally climbed out of the bag. Apparently, Bopanna has been dumped in a tit for tat reaction for excusing himself from the tie against Spain. The 28th ranked Bopanna claimed to have picked up an injury at the US Open, while the AITA felt that he was making an excuse.

AITA picked on an Instagram post by the tennis star, which showed him dancing away at a night club on the final day of that Davis Cup tie in September.

"I am not feigning injury. I was very clear that I was injured. Even last time to play against New Zealand, I took two 12-hour flights. That's my first priority, to play for India. I did not go home. They are qualified physios and when they tell you something, you need to respect them," Bopanna told the media on the sidelines of the Chennai Open.

"For me to do one sprint of 100 metres, yes, I can do it but if I have to constantly serve and volley for five sets, it's not possible. I never said, I could not run, I could not walk, I could not jump. I was not 100 percent fit. As a tennis player that is where I am looking at it. Who knows if they call me to play singles like they did in Chandigarh? So I am looking at it as overall picture. They need to understand the player," added a clearly miffed Bopanna.

The complete lack of communication between the players and AITA is an age old problem that refuses to go away. It is increasingly apparent that selectors work on the instructions of administrators and are later left to fend for themselves. There is no one left smiling in this process.

The variety of reasons that have spilled over from 22 December, when the team was announced, is a clear indication of the absence of clarity inside AITA. It is a maze that opens to the chants of power rather than the charms of the players.

Bopanna has been a loyal servant of Indian tennis, having played for the country over the past 16 years. And over the years, especially with the emergence of two power centres in Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes, Bopanna has taken the side of the former leading to several altercations with the AITA.

In the lead up to the Olympics both at London in 2012 and Rio in 2016, Bopanna was vocal about not wanting to play with Paes. While in the first instance, Bopanna and Bhupathi got their way with the sports body, he was asked to play with Leander in Rio.

Bopanna had also criticised the AITA’s decision to compel Sania Mirza to play with Leander at London as a compromise formula that was worked out. In return, Leander had to give up his hopes of partnering either Bhupathi or Bopanna in the men’s doubles. The veteran has then played with Vishnu Vardhan with no serious hope of success.

The fact that the selectors always picked six players, before the captain reduced it to four ahead of the tie, leaves a bitter aftertaste as well. AITA announced a five-member team for the February tie, aggravating Bopanna's annoyance with the tennis body.

After all, Bopanna has worked plenty of sweat for India and expects AITA to treat him with dignity. It was his iconic reverse singles victory in the final rubber against Brazil that helped India reach the World Group in 2011.

Unfortunately, Bopanna is paying the price for being caught up between this unending storm that brews between Bhupathi, Paes and AITA. The long standing battle is doing nothing but leave tennis in India wet with worry.


Updated Date: Jan 04, 2017 16:50 PM

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