Double trouble for India's tennis stars

Bhupathi says will not go to Olympics with Paes

India's Mahesh Bhupathi will not go to the London Olympics if he is separated from his usual partner and forced to play with Leander Paes, the doubles specialist told Reuters on Friday.

A row erupted when the All Indian Tennis Association (AITA) announced on Friday that Bhupathi would be prevented from competing with his normal partner Rohan Bopanna.

Instead he would have to play with Paes, with whom he won three Grand Slam titles before the pair had an acrimonious split.

"I have told them I will not partner Leander Paes," Bhupathi told Reuters at the Queen's Club tournament in West London.

"I have told them I am not available if they don't pick me with Rohan.

"We have been hoping all year since we decided to partner together that we were going to represent India at the Olympics.

"The decision taken today did not go in our favour so we are going to try and hope that something changes."

Bhupathi and Paes joined forces to great effect in the late 1990s, winning the French Open and Wimbledon in 1999 before claiming a second Roland Garros title two years later.

Their partnership did not endure, however, as the relationship gradually deteriorated and they ceased to play together on the tour circuit from 2002.

They announced they would never appear together again after joining up for the Asian Games in 2006, but managed to put their differences aside to play at the Beijing Olympics, where they finished joint fifth.

They played together at the Australian Open in 2011 and Paes even attended Bhupathi's wedding to former Miss Universe Lara Dutta.

While the acrimony has cooled, Bhupathi feels they do not have the relationship on court needed to succeed at the Olympics in July and August.

"We (Paes and Bhupathi) haven't practised together," he added.

"We haven't literally spoken with each other since we played last at the Masters in London in November so there is no camaraderie, there is no chemistry.

"So for me to go back to a fifth Olympics and make up the numbers is not going to be exciting at all. They have kind of killed our Olympic dream."

Paes, who completed his collection of men's doubles grand-slam titles when he triumphed at the Australian Open in January with Czech partner Radek Stepanek, was given direct entry into the Olympic doubles thanks to his top-10 ranking.

Bopanna is ranked 12th and Bhupathi is 14th.

"There is a lot of room for manoeuvre," Bhupathi said. "The two teams have already qualified. We have qualified on our ranking as a team and Leander being top ten gets the pick of another player so there is a lot of room for manoeuvre, they just have to wake up and smell the coffee.

"It does not make any sense when logic is not prevailing.

"When you can send four people to the Olympics and the government has given us money for the year to make the Olympics and all of a sudden they are taking two spots away. It is complex and we can't understand it."

Bopanna, who won his first and only title with Bhupathi in March in Dubai, believes the AITA have underestimated the on-court chemistry between the pair.

"I have been training with Mahesh the last six months," he said. "I even changed partners because of the fact we were going to play at the Olympics. We have the same coach travelling with us and it makes a huge difference having a great camaraderie."
 

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