A day after the Sports Ministry made it clear that athletes who remain unavailable for national duty would not get financial aid from it, top tennis star Leander Paes said his commitment should not be questioned since he has given his all in the last 24 years while playing for India.
While the ministry had not named any athlete, it was clear that the reference was to tennis players who skipped the Incheon Asian Games to play on the ATP tour to salvage their rankings.
Paes said he was not aware of the whole story so he cannot comment much but his patriotism is beyond doubt. (Choose Country, Not Money: Sports Ministry Tells Tennis Stars)
"I have not heard about it so it's not right for me to comment. But I have played six Olympics and I don't have to say more about my commitment," Paes told an English news channel.
"It's very clear to see, I love playing for the flag and the people. When I play at Grand Slams, I play for India, for flag and for people," the 41-year-old player said.
Paes, who has been a hero of India's many memorable Davis Cup victories, said "At the end of the day, I have to do my job and earn my living and I am focussed on my job, winning more Grand Slams. I have done my bit in the last 24 years not just for myself but also for the people," he said.
Asked if the ministry has been unfair to him by questioning his commitment, Paes said, "I have heard (ministry's version) and I don't want to comment. I have tremendous respect for the Sports Minister. My job is to play hard and I will continue to do so. A lot goes into winning Grand Slams and also the Davis Cup."
Paes also clarified that he has not received any financial aid from the government since the 2012 London Olympics.
He concluded by saying that playing for the country was a "great joy for an athlete".
AITA had backed the tennis players, saying their commitment should not be questioned.