In a time when most tennis teams are working together to develop that all important team spirit ahead of the London Olympic Games next month, trouble is brewing for the Indian team thanks to the All Indian Tennis Association’s (AITA) recent controversial decisions.
Currently competing in the doubles events at Queen’s, the popular Indian doubles dup Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna (ranked 14th and 12th respectively) were expecting to be paired together to compete in July’s Olympic Games. However the AITA has ignored the players’ wishes and instead paired Bhupathi with his former partner Leander Paes to create the country’s one and only doubles team this year.
Already drawing criticism from the pair for its choice to only send one team of doubles players to compete at the event when India was entitled, just like every other country, to two, the AITA also faces repeated appeals from the pair, and Bhupathi in particular has a very good reason for not wanting to be paired again with his former partner.
On paper, Bhupathi and Paes may seem like the ideal pairing to compete at such a prestigious event. During their partnership, which was at its peak throughout the late nineties, the two collected a total of three Grand Slam trophies as well as a number of other achievements. But they haven’t been able to repeat their Grand Slam success in the four times that the pair have previously competed in Olympic Games, the last being at the 2008 Beijing games, despite Paes winning a singes Bronze medal in Atlanta in 1996.
It’s not just their bad luck at Olympic events that has caused Bhupathi to be so distressed at reuniting with his former partner. The two players shared a deep friendship, which even saw Paes attending Bhupathi’s wedding, but it was revealed that Paes had found another partner to play with despite the two agreeing in 2011 that they would come together to compete at the Olympics. Bhupathi vowed the he “wasn’t ever going to play with this guy again. I couldn’t even look at him, never mind play tennis with him”, even going so far as saying that the AITA has failed “to put the interests of the nation first…to not send one of the best tennis teams in the world to the Olympics”.