India's tennis trauma could end soon. A compromise appears tantalizingly close, with the All India Tennis Association hopeful that India's highest ranked player (No. 7), Leander Paes, will agree to play in the Olympics after he was guaranteed that Sania Mirza will play the mixed doubles with him. (Read: Top 10 developments in the tennis row)
Earlier on Thursday, his father indicated that Leander would skip the Olympics, when the AITA said it had decided to send two teams for the men's doubles event. The association decided to pair Mahesh Bhupathi with Rohan Bopanna after all. Just a day earlier, Leander had warned that he would not play the Olympics if that happened, because it would force him to pair with a rookie. The association teamed him up with Vishnu Vardhan, ranked 207 in the doubles. "It's a question of his principles...his emotions would want him to play, his principles would say no," said Leander's father, Vece, to NDTV after the announcement of the team. (Read: Team selection decision unfair, says Vece Paes)
Officials agreed the decision seemed unfair - both Bhpuathi and Bopanna had refused to play with Paes because they say they have been a team on the ATP Tour this year, while the Tennis Association had said Leander should have been the first choice because he's ranked higher - but asked players to accept the decision gracefully, a tall order given the open slandering and unforgiving egos that have been at play.
But the association had tried to sweeten the deal for Leander. It said the mixed doubles event would see Sania Mirza paired with Leander, not Mahesh Bhupathi, with who she won the French Open less than two weeks ago.
Leander was worried that this was not set in stone. Sources say, Leander's worry stemmed from the fact that if Sania and Bhupathi played well at the upcoming Wimbledon, which is also the venue for tennis at London Olympics, it would jeapordise his pairing with Sania as the AITA could then decide to play Bhupathi with her.Â Â
Meanwhile, Vishnu Vardhan says he's thrilled to be partnering with 39-year-old Leander: "I'm very happy to be playing with Leander. I've grown up watching Leander. What he has done for the country is huge." (Read: Who is Vishnu Vardhan?)
Vishnu had won a bronze in men's doubles at the 2010 Asian Games and a silver medal in the mixed doubles event with Sania in Guangzhou, China.