It was a Question of Bread and Butter: Leander Paes on Missing Asian Games
Leading singles player Somdev Devvarman was the first player to pull out of the Asian Games, the dates of which are clashing with many ATP and WTA events on the circuit, where Indian players have a lot of points to defend.
Their commitment to country questioned after a pullout from the Asian Games, India's top tennis players on Wednesday tried to put their decision in perspective by saying that they had an obligation to earn their "bread and butter".
Leading singles player Somdev Devvarman was the first player to pull out of the Asian Games, the dates of which are clashing with many ATP and WTA events on the circuit, where Indian players have a lot of points to defend. (Also read: Paes slides to lowest rank in 11 years)
Rohan Bopanna followed suit, while Sania Mirza left it to the All India Tennis Association to take a call on the matter.
AITA said considering the very important requirements of players, it has decided to respect their request and allow them to play ATP and WTA tournaments so that they can have a respectable opportunity to represent the nation in the World Championships at the end of the year.
Somdev was categorical when he reasoned his decision and Sania, who won the US Open mixed doubles title, had left it to the AITA to take a decision whether she should play. Veteran Leander Paes Wednesday tried to explain the decision on behalf of others.
"This is my bread and butter and at the end of the day my ranking has dropped to 35 in the world. Hence I have to get some job security for next year. I have to play a long fall season, through Kuala Lumpur as well as Tokyo, these two tournaments are the exact dates in the nine-day span of the events in Asian Games," Paes said while speaking to media ahead of the Davis Cup tie against Serbia.
The 41-year-old said his service and commitment to the nation cannot be questioned.
"For me, as far as playing for the country, I have done it for 24 plus years and I will always put my best foot forward just as I am here even though initially I was not available to play. I will always do that. Looking at the longevity of my career, playing at Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo has become very important," the multiple Grand Slam winner said.
Bopanna also reasoned that it was not easy for him to make this decision.
"We as Asian players look forward to this. Like Lee said, it's been a tough year for us. Last year I won in Tokyo, so I have to defend there, so it was tough decision," the tall and big-serving player said.
"It had nothing to do with representing the country or not. Whenever we have been called, we have represented the flag. It is just unfortunate," Bopanna said.
It has been learnt that AITA did try to get Sania and Bopanna to pair up for the mixed doubles and efforts were made so that they get late entries. However, it could not materialise.
Top players can not be replaced with others as the deadline for that has expired. It means that India have been left with only four players in the men's events -- Yuki Bhambri, Sanam Singh, Saketh Myneni and Divij Sharan.
In the absence of Sania, the women's challenge will be led by Ankita Raina, the highest-ranked singles player in the country at number 293.