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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

'Bopanna back-stabbed Leander'

The sports minister added a new twist to the tennis selection saga on Monday, and it seems now that Leander Paes will have an inexperienced, albeit zero-controversy, player as his partner in London.

Leander Paes Rohan Bopanna

Irrespective of who Paes ultimately gets to play with in the Olympic doubles event at Wimbledon, they are not going to be half as formidable as any of the three possible pairings featuring the trio of doubles specialists.So, who ultimately won and who lost in this battle of egos? Paes didn’t want to be disturbed as he’s playing the grasscourt meet in s’Hertogenbosch (the Netherlands), in preparation of the Wimbledon Championships beginning next week. His dad, Dr Vece Paes, agreed to answer some tough questions. Following are excerpts:Leander will be playing the Olympics with a highly inexperienced player. This reduces chances of a medal considerably.Of course it does… As Leander has said before, he thought India’s best chance of winning a medal in men’s doubles was for him to pair with Rohan Bopanna. He was game about playing with Mahesh Bhupathi, too, once the AITA nominated the two of them. You can’t fault Leander for Rohan and Mahesh refusing to play for the country.Mahesh accused Leander of back-stabbing him last November.Let me set the record straight. It was Rohan who suggested to Leander in Shanghai last October that they should play together in 2012 and also the Olympics. Leander was open to the idea but told Rohan he couldn’t guarantee the Olympic pairing as it depended on the AITA. Rohan was supposed to tell Mahesh about his wish to partner Leander, but he dilly-dallied, and when Leander finally broke the news to Mahesh after the World Doubles meet in November, Mahesh exploded. The next we heard was that Rohan and Mahesh would be playing together in 2012. This was the sequence of events. If anyone was doing the back-stabbing, it was Rohan.He let Leander down. And to refresh memories, way back in 2002, it was Mahesh who walked out of his partnership with Leander one fine morning, bang in the middle of the season, after the two had lost in the first round of the Delray Beach event.Why did Leander wait for Rohan to break the news to Mahesh rather than tell him straightaway?Leander did tell Mahesh that he was looking for a younger partner with fresh legs, but didn’t mention Rohan’s name. In hindsight, he should have told Mahesh directly rather than wait for Rohan for a month.Despite Bopanna’s doublespeak, why did Leander still want him as partner in the Olympics?The belief is that everyone strives to play for the country by putting aside all other issues. Just like Leander and Mahesh have done so many times. We thought since this would be Rohan’s first and probably last chance to play in the Olympics, he would put his best foot forward in tandem with Leander.Then Leander should have joined forces with Rohan at the beginning of 2011 rather than renewing his partnership with Bhupathi after a gap of nine years on Tour…Rohan was then still not the doubles player as he is today. He matured and took off in 2011. So at the end of 2010, Mahesh was the only option thinking ahead to the Olympics. Leander wanted to give it a final shot with him.They did quite well as a team in 2011. What influenced Leander’s decision to part ways with Mahesh at the end of last year?Lee and Mahesh started the year well, won three events including a couple of Masters events, but then plateaud out, losing in the first or second round in nine tournaments. Leander was worried with Mahesh’s fitness and felt he couldn’t recover quickly enough after playing a long match, which was affecting their results.

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