LONDON: Indian tennis descended further into the mire on Monday as Rohan Bopanna declined AITA's offer to pair up with Leander Paes for the men's doubles event of the London Olympics.
Following Bhupathi's adamant refusal to team up with Paes, Bopanna's stand has placed the AITA in further distress after it had nominated the estranged Bhupathi-Paes as partners.
Bopanna made his disinclination to toe AITA's line this morning despite stating that it is his "dream to represent India in Olympics".
"With all respect and humility, I have been unable to accept AITA's offer and have communicated my decision to them in writing this morning," he said.
Bopanna said the very basis of his forming a team with Bhupathi was to play together in the Olympics and that the tennis body was fully aware of this.
The big-serving Bopanna also claimed that Paes and he do not make for a good pairing and their partnership, if it were to materialize, was unlikely to yield the desired result.
"Since the beginning of the year, I have partnered with Mahesh Bhupathi towards playing together as at team at the Olympics. This was communicated to the AITA at every step and we were encouraged to continue to play together.
"Having played alongside Leander Paes only twice during my career, I recognize that as a team we are under-prepared for the demands of the Olympics and, in good faith, I could not accept AITA's offer that we play together."
Bopanna said he wouldn't risk personal integrity for Olympic glory.
"I understand that many might find this decision difficult to comprehend. However, my professional integrity will not permit me to make this compromise. I owe this to the partners I have played with in the past, Mahesh Bhupathi who I currently play with and those I will partner in the future. I will still be able to look each of them in the eye.
"I believe we are nothing but the product of our choices," he added.
Bopanna also aimed a taunt at Paes, who had severed his partnership with Bhupathi last year to remain in the top-10 with a different partner.
"In October 2011, I broke up an extremely successful partnership with Aisam Qureshi as I believed that Olympics preparedness required hard work and understanding between partners and the numerous little adjustments that make a team work.
"This was the toughest professional decision I have taken, as it signified an end to a great partnership and jeopardized a close friendship that was built over many years of struggle and, ultimately, success on the ATP Tour.
Having been ranked No. 8 in the world last year, I could have taken a far easier route to Olympics qualification - if that was my only goal - by continuing my existing partnership and aiming for a personal top-10 ranking."
Paes however has said that he would partner anybody that AITA chooses. "I have no reaction to the recent statements made by Mahesh Bhupathi to the media. I have alwaysmaintained that I will play with whoever the selection committee and AITA choose and this continues to be my stand," he said.
Paes, though, expressed a preference for Bopanna. "It is a well-known fact that when asked by the AITA, I have expressed my preference to play with Rohan Bopanna as my partner in the Olympics 2012, based on his physical fitness and big serve. Winning a medal at the Atlanta Olympics is themost cherished memory I have in my tennis career. To play for our flag, and represent India for the 6th time at the Olympics, is my greatest honour. I will, as I always have in the past, put my best foot forward," he added.
Meanwhike, Sports minister Ajay Maken has questioned AITA's decision to send only one men's doubles team when it had the option of picking two."We can send 2 teams, why send 1? Hidden question is on who should pair Sania? Why disturb victorious Grand Slam mixed double pair?" Maken tweeted.
The prospect of another Olympic medal rests upon this partnership quagmire. French Open mixed doubles winner Sania Mirza awaits a wildcard and also the identity of her partner in the London mixed event to further her Olympics dreams. Bhupathi, in whose company she claimed the Roland Garros title recently, has already refused to compete citing his reluctance to partner Paes - his AITA designated partner.
A visibly upset Bhupathi had made clear his stand in an interview to a television channel, and also through an official email to AITA the contents of which were later made available online.
"I have already told AITA that I will not be available to play the Olympics if I am paired with Leander. I haven't even spoken to Leander since November. Rohan and I would have been the best pairing and we have repeatedly told the AITA that," he had said.
Bhupathi and Bopanna had also issued a joint statement, slamming the AITA's decision. "To not send one of the best tennis teams in the world to the Olympics - and to, instead, choose to nominate one that has had four previous unsuccessful attempts - fails to put the interests of the nation first," the statement read.
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