New Delhi: A persistent All India Tennis Association today scored a moral victory while Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna were snubbed after the Sports Ministry left the selection of the men’s doubles pair for next month’s Olympics to AITA’s discretion.
Requested by Bhupathi and Bopanna, who want to be sent to the London Games as a team, the Ministry decided against interfering in AITA’s selection process and asked the body to take a call keeping in mind the national interest.
The ministry’s stand, which delivered a big blow to Bhupathi and Bopanna, came after AITA dashed off a detailed reply which outlined the logic behind pairing the feuding duo of Leander Paes and Bhupathi despite the latter’s opposition.
Ministry had sought an explanation from AITA after Bhupathi questioned the selection and asked why the AITA was insisting on sending just one team when India was entitled to two slots.
Bhupathi and Bopanna want AITA to choose another partner for Paes, who has gained direct individual entry to the London draw based on the basis of his top-10 ranking.
AITA in its reply to the ministry 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.”
AITA explained that if it lets Bhupathi and Bopanna pair, Paes will be forced to play with either Yuki Bhambri (ranked 306) or Vishnu Vardhan (207) since the more experienced Somdev Devvarman is injured.
“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 Bopanna or Bhupathi.”
AITA presented five options to the ministry and asked it to help in deciding which one to follow but Sports Minister Ajay Maken refused to intervene in the selection crisis.
“The Sports Ministry does not wish to be part of selection process. We had raised certain issues because of requests from certain iconic players,” Ajay Maken said in a statement.