Another mega event and we have another fall out between Leander Paes and the All India Tennis Association (AITA). Just two days ahead of the start of the Asian Games, 18-time Grand Slam champion Paes decided to pull out of the event because he was being asked to play doubles with a struggling singles player Sumit Nagal. The AITA decided to pair India’s top doubles players Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan for the other men’s doubles match at the Asian Games.
"It is with a heavy heart that I have to say that I will not be playing the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia. Despite my repeated requests, from so many weeks in advance, it is sad that we have not been able to put a doubles specialist in the team for a credible second doubles pairing for the Asian Games." - Leander Paes
Here’s a look at some of the other public spats involving Leander Paes.
1. Paes vs Bhupathi (As Doubles Partners)
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were one of the best-ever doubles partners in the world. They won 23 ATP titles and 3 Grand Slams as a team. In 1999, they became the first Indian pair to reach the final of the each of the Grand Slam events. They also scaled to the World Number 1 ranking in the same year.
However, towards the end of 1999, Bhupathi underwent a shoulder surgery and Paes was unhappy with the timing of the surgery. That’s where the trouble between the two began. And they decided to split for the first time in 2000.
"Last year (1999) we had one of our best years on the court, and one of the worst years off it. There were many incidents last year when Mahesh and I wanted to terminate our partnership, but we stuck on and played together as a professional team." - Leander Paes said in 2000
Further, Paes was miffed about Bhupathi hiring Enrico Piperno as his personal coach.
"The fact is that Mahesh’s coach Enrico Piperno, by badmouthing me to Mahesh, my sponsors and my friends, created a lack of trust in the friendship between Mahesh and myself, and that is something that eventually got the better of us." - Leander Paes said in 2000
After their split in 2000, Paes and Bhupathi tried to resurrect their flourishing partnership, but failed on multiple occasions.
2. Paes vs Mirza
Ahead of the 2012 Olympics, the AITA decided that Paes and Bhupathi should play in the men’s doubles draw for India. But Bhupathi, who regularly played with Bopanna at that time, refused to play with Paes. Even Bopanna didn’t want to partner Paes at the Olympics.
Thereafter, the AITA let Bhupathi and Bopanna have their way and asked Paes to play doubles with Vishnu Vardhan, who was ranked 307. Paes wasn’t too happy about playing Vardhan and said will participate in the Olympics, only if Sania Mirza plays mixed doubles with him. Paes reportedly wanted a written assurance from Mirza that she will play mixed doubles only with him.
Mirza, miffed about the situation, lashed out at Paes.
"For Leander to consider partnering with Vishnu only if he has a written assurance from me to play mixed (as Vece uncle has suggested in his television interviews) is, I think demeaning for me, Vishnu and Leander Paes." - Sania Mirza
Mirza, who had won the French Open mixed doubles title just before the Olympics, preferred to play the mixed doubles competition with Mahesh Bhupathi. Since she won the Grand Slam with him.
However, finally, Mirza unhappily played the mixed doubles tournament with Paes.
3. Paes vs Bopanna & Mirza
After Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna lost the bronze medal play-off match at the Rio Olympics in 2016, Paes made a strong statement saying ‘India haven’t sent their best teams in the last two Olympics.’
"I can very clearly say that in this Olympics (2016) and last Olympics we didn’t put the best team forward. This Olympics, the mixed doubles was a great opportunity. What more does a man need to do than win four Grand Slams in 14 months. There were no more tournaments to win, I could not create anymore tournaments. Sad. Long story short, let’s nurture these kids." - Leander Paes
Sania Mirza didn’t take the the statement too well and in reply she called Paes ‘toxic’.
Rohan Bopanna, too, showed his dissent towards Paes’ statement.
At it again!! ...the usual ploy to stay in the news by slanging fellow players in media. #Patriotism— Rohan Bopanna (@rohanbopanna) September 18, 2016
4. Paes vs Bhupathi (As Player & Captain)
Paes and Bhupathi were at each other yet again, but this time not as doubles partners, but as player and non-playing captain. Bhupathi, who is Indian Davis Cup team’s non-playing captain, dropped Paes from the Indian Davis Cup team for the match against Uzbekistan in April 2017.
Rohan Bopanna made the cut, despite Paes winning a Challenger title in Mexico only a few days before the selection was made. Paes was dropped from the David Cup for the first time in his career. He was always picked in the Davis Cup team for 27 years.
Paes said Bhupathi had flouted selection criteria.
"At one time, it is based on rankings and other times it’s based on likes and personal preferences. Sometimes it’s not on personal preferences, it is based on who plays deuce court and who plays on ad court. And now it is based on form. On form, you guys know better who has played better." - Leander Paes
Bhupathi said that Paes hadn’t played in Davis Cup doubles highest stress situations before the Uzbekistan rubber.
"I think these boys have been here since Sunday, and we were able to play a lot of sets with Rohan and Bala. They played three sets every day. Leander, unfortunately, came only yesterday and he played three games and it started raining. So, there wasn’t enough Davis Cup doubles highest stress situations for him." - Mahesh Bhupathi
Bhupathi added that Paes would have had more chances to get selected had he arrived earlier.
"If I had the full team by Sunday and Monday, I would have had more time probably to make a dedicated decision. " - Mahesh Bhupathi
. Read more on Tennis by The Quint.Leander Paes’ Absence a Big Blow for Us: India Coach Zeeshan AliPaes vs Bhupathi, Paes vs Mirza: 4 Public Spats Involving Leander . Read more on Tennis by The Quint.