Indian tennis star Leander Paes has staked his claim to represent India at the Olympics. Paes, who has 17 Grand Slam titles to his name, had bagged the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open with Martina Hingis in 2015, to become the first pair to win three Grand Slams in a calendar year. (Leander Paes Forced to Pull Out of Chennai Open)
Paes hoped that there would be no repeat of the London Olympics controversy, and that the selection of the team would be done on merit.
The build-up to the 2012 London Games was marred by a selection row as players resorted to bickering amongst themselves. A can of worms opened up when Rohan Bopanna refused to partner Paes in the event, insisting on teaming up with Mahesh Bhupathi. (Leander Paes saddened by London Games row, blames Mahesh Bhupathi for 'split')
"Selection should always be done on merit. I believe having won nine mixed doubles and eight doubles titles I would be the front runner to represent India at the Olympics - both in the men's doubles with Rohan Bopanna and mixed doubles with Sania Mirza.
"I think when you look at the mixed doubles in particular, Rohan has never even been in final. In fact I played him in the semifinal at the US Open and I beat him. Neither Sania nor Rohan, have been in mixed doubles final this whole year in 2015 and Rohan has never been in mixed doubles final in his career, so I hope that I get the opportunity to go on merit in both doubles and mixed doubles with Rohan and Sania.
"But at this stage nothing surprises me after London and I really hope for the Indian public, fans and for us Indian athletes that London doesn't replay itself," said Paes.
The 42-year-old, who has been in great form, feels he is at the peak of his game at the moment.
"Especially the year leading into the Olympic Year at Rio, to win three Grand Slams in mixed doubles is something that I feel happy about. I found a great partner in the form of Martina Hingis. We won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open and were just short of completing the Slams," Paes told NDTV.
"Especially coming into the Olympic year, winning my 15th, 16th and 17th Grand Slam title is something that I feel happy about. My fitness is at a high level, my game is improving and I really believe that one of biggest chances for India to win an Olympic medal in tennis is at the mixed doubles," he added. (Sania Mirza, Leander Paes Give India Doubles Glory, But Where Are Singles Stars?)
The Indian ace said he is eager to win his second Olympic medal and hopes that the team will gel well.
"I have always prided myself for playing for the flag and for the people. So it's no wonder that my fitness, motivation and single-mindedness focus is at its peak in 2016, because we are six months shy from the Rio Olympics. I'm all geared up to win my second Olympic medal and I really hope London doesn't play out again," said the ace tennis player, who is considered to be one of the best doubles and mixed doubles players in the world.
'Saina Nehwal's achievement the standout moment of 2015'
Meanwhile, Paes picked Saina Nehwal over Sania Mirza as India's sportsperson of the year 2015.
"Sure Sania has had a phenomenal year and I feel happy for her to be able to win the Wimbledon and US Open and become No. 1 in the women's doubles. But if you look at it, to become number one in the world in singles what Saina Nehwal did was phenomenal.
"To me being number one in the world in singles is what Roger Federer did or what Novak Djokovic has done and for Saina to get to number one in singles, for me, is the pinnacle of the 2015 as far as Indian sports go," said Paes.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)