Indian selectors have picked a Leander Paes-Mahesh Bhupati combination as the country's one men's doubles tennis team for the London Olympics, but Bhupathi has 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 Rohan 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 announced in Bangalore today that India would send only one men's doubles tennis team to London and 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,Â 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.
The selectors also announced today that they had sought both singles and doubles wildcard entries for Sania Mirza and a doubles wildcard for Rushmi Chakravarty.
HERE'S THE FULL JOINT STATEMENT BY MAHESH BHUPATHI AND ROHAN BOPANNA:
As a team that is entitled to a Direct Acceptance based on ITF criteria, we are saddened to learn of the decision of the AITA Selection Committee to not nominate us for participation in the Men's Doubles Tennis event at the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
As athletes who have committed ourselves to representing the nation, we have worked tirelessly on our pairing, choosing to break winning partnerships, and keep aside personal best interests, to combine forces to represent the nation on sport's most prestigious platform. We have worked together on strengthening our partnership and have proved its benefits.Â As a result, 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. This was on the basis that we are a team legitimately entitled to a Direct Acceptance to the Olympics by virtue of our rankings. It is indeed disappointing that the AITA has chosen to disregard our request.
We believe that ignoring a combination that is fully committed, dedicated and prepared is an unjustifiable compromise. 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.Â Moreover, choosing to send only one team when India was entitled to two denies two highly accomplished players of the privilege and opportunity to represent the country at the Olympics. This is a sad day for Indian tennis from all perspectives.
We are sure that there have been multiple considerations leading to this decision but are hopeful that better sense will prevail before the ITF's team nomination deadline of June 21, 2012. We will continue to make our case to all concerned over the next few days.
We have no further comments at this time.