The big tennis mess

Bikash Singh

The great Indian tennis fiasco hit its nadir right in time for the London Olympics. Old rumblings bubbled over as Mahesh Bhupathi refused to play with his AITA-nominated partner Leander Paes and demanded to be paired with Rohan Bopanna, with whom he had played in the lead up to the mega event. After a series of released statements, protracted name-calling and camp-shifting, Bhupathi got to play with Bopanna, while Paes was attached to rookie Vishnu Vardhan. As a placatory measure, Paes also got to compete in mixed doubles with Sania Mirza - an unwilling pawn in the battle.

The result of all this ostensible masterclass in man management was pure zilch. India gained no medals from tennis. The AITA later decided to ban the errant Bhupathi and Bopanna on disciplinary grounds, forbidding them from representing the country till 2014.

Bhupathi challenged the ban, which was stayed by the Karnataka High Court. As things stand, his India career is possibly over. But perhaps even more alarming than the dirty squabbling of those that run the game was the acute paucity of talent to replace our aging, arguing pros. All this murky business, however, hasn't stopped Bhupathi, Paes  and Bopanna from being what they primarily are - world class doubles tennis players. They have won the last two Masters titles - Paris and Shanghai - and qualified for the year-end World Tour Finals. Now if only Somdev Devvarman could toughen up and mount a return to the top 100...50. Ah, dreams!