New Delhi: Indian tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi has sent an official letter to the All India Tennis Association saying he will not play with Leander Paes in the men's doubles at the London Olympics.
He has reiterated in the letter that Rohan Bopanna is the only person he's willing to partner at the event.
Earlier on Monday the AITA had 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 had 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 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 said.
The angry fuselage of words from the two tennis aces came after 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.
After Bhupathi's refusal, Bopanna has now been officially approached by the AITA Selection Committee to play with Paes. He hasn't responded yet but is expected to do so on Monday.
Officials from Sports Ministry have also been in touch with both Bhupathi and Bopanna on the matter.
Meanwhile, despite Bhupathi declining to partner Paes at Olympics, the latter 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 released by Paes on Saturday.
He, though, added that he would prefer to partner 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 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.
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.