New Delhi: Indian tennis player Sania Mirza has finally broken her silence on the whole tennis row after she was awarded a wild card in the women's doubles event at the London Olympics on Tuesday.
In a press release on Tuesday, Sania criticised the All India Tennis Association (AITA), Leander Paes, his father Dr. Vece Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi for their roles in the tennis crisis.
Sania lashed out at AITA for their decision to pair her with Leander Paes in the mixed doubles event to get the latter to agree to participate at the London Games, saying the decision reeked of 'male chauvinism'.
"As an Indian woman belonging to the 21st century, what I find disillusioning is the humiliating manner in which I was put up as a bait to try and pacify one of the disgruntled stalwarts of Indian tennis. (Read full text of Sania's letter)
"While I feel honored and privileged to have been chosen to partner Leander Paes, the manner and timing of the announcement wreaks of male chauvinism where a two time Grand Slam champion, who has been India's number 1 women's tennis player for almost a decade in singles and doubles is offered in compensation to partner one of the feuding champions purely in order to lure him into accepting to play with a men's player he does not wish to play with!
She added this arrangement by the AITA was a 'blatant humiliation'.
"This kind of blatant humiliation of Indian womanhood needs to be condemned even if it comes from the highest controlling body of tennis in our country."
Sania, meanwhile, also hit out at Leander Paes, who is angry at being paired with the 207-ranked Vishnu Vardhan in the men's doubles at the Olympics, saying it was 'demeaning for me, Vishnu and Leander Paes' for Paes to consider playing with Vishnu only if she gave a written assurance to play mixed doubles with him.
"To Leander Paes I would like to point out that Vishnu Vardhan is an extremely talented player, who I had the privilege of partnering. We went on to win a silver medal for India at the 2010 Asian Games, when all the three male stalwarts of Indian tennis had opted to stay away from Guangzhou. "I am convinced that he can go one better when pitted with someone as good as Leander as partner.
"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 also had some harsh words for Leander's father, Dr. Vece Paes, for asking her to give in writing that she would team up with his son, insisting that her committment is only to the country.
"To Dr. Vece Paes, who has on camera asked me to give in writing about my intention of partnering his son for the mixed doubles event at the Olympics, I would like to point out that my commitment is to my country.
"For the sake of India I am committed to play with Leander Paes or Mahesh Bhupathi or Rohan Bopanna or Somdev Devvarman or Vishnu Vardhan or any other person that my country feels I am good enough to partner. There should never ever be a question on this although if asked, I am entitled to have my preferences. I will do everything i possibly can to win a medal for Inda."
Sania did not even spare Mahesh Bhupathi, her mixed doubles partner on the regular tennis circuit, and is upset with him for choosing to sacrifice his pairing with her to keep his team with Rohan Bopanna intact.
"Mahesh Bhupathi has firmly stood by his commitment to play together with his men's doubles partner, Rohan Bopanna as he genuinely believed it was good for India. However, in the process, he sacrificed the commitment he made to me to try and win an Olympic medal together for India. Each person has his or her own priorities and I would like to believe that Mahesh made his choice in the best interests of the country," said Sania.
The ace tennis player said she had chosen to speak up on the issue now as she was now assured of her participation at the Games.
"Since the day AITA (All India Tennis Association) announced the team for the Olympics a lot of questions have been raised by friends, colleagues, their parents and of course, by the media. As I thought these questions were purely hypothetical without my having qualified into the London Olympics, I did not think it was appropriate for me to respond to them at that point of time. However, now that I am officially a part of the greatest sporting event in the world, I think it is imperative for me to clarify my feelings."
Earlier, the AITA had announced their decision to pair Sania with Paes, India's highest ranked player at No.7, in the mixed doubles as the latter was unhappy to have been teamed up with the much lower ranked Vishnu Vardhan in the men's doubles. The AITA had been left with little choice after both Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna refused to partner Paes at the Olympics. AITA had to finally give into their demands and Bhupathi and Bopanna were eventually paired together.