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Friday, April 19, 2024

Paes lied to me: Mahesh Bhupathi

Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes

NEW DELHI: Mahesh Bhupathi on Monday blamed the All India Tennis Federation for the selection row ahead of next month’s Olympics, saying that it has resulted due to AITA’s insistence on sending only one team to the London Games. 

Bhupathi, who wrote a letter to the Sports Ministry to intervene in the matter, said that AITA knew all along that two teams could be sent to London, and the row would not have happened had the federation selected two teams. 

“We told them (AITA) much earlier that this situation will arise and India will get two teams in the Olympics. We told them (AITA) that me and Bopanna were preparing to play as a pair for the Olympics,” Bhupathi said. 

“They (AITA) said in writing that we would be allowed to play as a pair if we qualify. That was given to us by the then president. If today they are denying this they were doing to save themselves,” he said. 

Bhupathi said that the issue can be resolved even now if AITA agrees to send two teams. 

“We were saying please send two teams and me and Bopanna want to pair up. Leander has been saying he wants to become the first Indian to play in six Olympics. He is going to go there no matter what. He can pick his partner being the world number seven. Me and Bopanna have also qualified on merit. This is the way which will make everyone happy,” he said. 

“For the last 10 days, me and Bopanna have been trying to convince AITA to send two teams. If AITA does not want to do so then it would be to make one man happy,” he said referring to Paes.

“We have sought the help of the Sports Minister and hoping that we get a lifeline. It’s the most tragic incident in Indian sport,” he told ‘Times Now’. 

“If we three of us were playing with three different partners, the AITA would be right in choosing who two should pair up. But me and Bopanna have been playing together for some time preparing for Olympics. Bopanna was in top 10 last year and he is in top 12 now. Why can’t we pair together?” he asked. 

Asked about Paes’ comments that he can pair up with anybody, Bhupathi said, “I would be happy to do that but we have returned empty handed in the four attempts from 2004 to 2008.” 

“If AITA feels that putting him (Paes) and one of us will have a chance for a medal, then they don’t know anything about tennis. It’s not about practice alone. We want to perform and we need the comfort between us, the chemistry and camaraderie,” he said. 

Bhupathi, however, conceded that he and Paes have made their relationship a “laughing stock” and both have to be blamed for this. 

“We have had love-hate relationships. But it is worse now. We have made our relationship a laughing stock in the country. Both of us are to be blamed for this. 

“But I don’t think it is about our relationship today. It’s about federation sending two teams.”

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