Tennis selection row for India ahead of Olympics

Published June 15, 2012

| Associated Press

Mahesh Bhupathi is going to the Olympics to play doubles tennis for India. It's not exactly what he was hoping for.

Bhupathi has has annoyed the All India Tennis Association by refusing to partner with Leander Paes in doubles at the London Games.

The AITA chose the duo on Friday to compete in doubles at their third successive Olympic Games, but Bhupathi immediately said he didn't want to play with Paes.

Bhupathi said he preferred Rohan Bopanna, because they won their first title together in February. Bhupathi and Bopanna said in a statement they were committed to representing India and wanted to pair up.

"We have worked together on strengthening our partnership and have proved its benefits," they said. "As a result, we have maintained our position as one of the top men's doubles teams in the world."

In doubles, Paes is ranked No. 7, Bopanna 12, and Bhupathi 14.

AITA secretary-general Anil Khanna said the selection committee had picked the best pair to represent the country.

"We thought these two (Paes and Bhupathi) have the best chance to win a medal at the Olympics, that's why we have decided to field them," Khanna said. "They have played for India despite differences in the past and they should do so again at the London Olympics."

Bhupathi and Paes, both former world No. 1s in doubles, have partnered on and off for 15 years, winning 26 titles, including Wimbledon in 1999 and the French Open in 1999 and 2001.

The pair said it had made its intentions clear in time.

"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."

The pair added that it hoped the AITA would have a rethink before the entries deadline of Thursday.

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