New Delhi: While Mahesh Bhupathi has made it amply clear that he is not ready to partner Leander Paes in the men's doubles at the tennis event in the London Olympics, Paes has said he will play with whoever is chosen by the selection committee.
"I have no reaction to the recent statements made by Mahesh Bhupati to the media. I have always maintained that I will play with whoever the selection committee and AITA choose and this continues to be my stand," said a statement sent by Paes exclusively to NDTV on Saturday.
He, though, added that he would prefer to partner Rohan Bopanna but that too for professional reasons.
"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 the most 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," said Paes.
Earlier on Monday, the All Indian Tennis Association picked the Paes-Bhupati combination as the country's one men's doubles tennis team for the Olympics, but Bhupathi said he can't go.
An upset Bhupathi told NDTV: "I have already told the All India Tennis Association (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." Hesh, as the Indian star is popularly known, wants to be sent with his regular doubles partner Bopanna. "Rohan and I would have been the best pairing and we have repeatedly told the AITA that."
Bhupathi and Bopanna have 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 said.
The angry fuselage of words from the two tennis aces came after tennis selectors chose to send only one men's doubles tennis team to London and said Paes and Bhupathi would have to play together as that team, despite stated differences. They made it clear that they are focused on quality, not quantity and would like to send a winning combination to London.
Bopanna and Bhupathi said that they had consistently asked AITA to consider them as that winning combination for the Olympics. "We have maintained our position as one of the top Men's Doubles teams in the world. We have repeatedly and consistently communicated to the AITA our desire to only be considered for selection as a team and not as individuals to be paired with any other players."
Bhupathi, who is on a high after winning the mixed doubles at the French Open last week with Sania Mirza, also said, "Their decision shows just how much my opinion is valued. I have had two very disappointing Olympic outings, don't want another one." He had asked not to play with Paes in 2008 in Beijing too, but the selectors had insisted on pairing them. They had advanced to the quarterfinals where they were beaten by Switzerland's Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka.
Paes and Bhupathi had once been India's most prolific doubles combination, but the relationship has been marred by many splits and they have been much more apart than together as years have gone by.