‘If I don’t partner Paes,neither will Bopanna’

Mahesh Bhupathi also says he is ready to pay back monthly grant of $6,000

Written by Smriti Sinha | New Delhi | Published:June 17, 2012 1:25 am

A day after he categorically refused to play alongside Leander Paes at the London Olympics,Mahesh Bhupathi on Saturday made it clear that if he decided not to make the trip to London his partner Rohan Bopanna would follow suit.

If both Bhupathi and Bopanna refuse to partner Paes it would affect the All India Tennis Association’s back-up plan of fielding the pair of Paes-Bopanna at the London Olympics. “If I refuse to go and say ‘no’,Rohan will also say ‘no’,then some plan C of theirs will have to come into force,” Bhupathi told The Sunday Express.

Moreover,Bhupathi said that he was ready to return the entire grant amount of $6,000 per month paid by the sports ministry towards his training requirements if he stuck to his decision to skip the London Games.

“If the sports ministry asks for it (the grant amount),I will give it back,” he said.

Bhupathi reiterated on Saturday that he will not participate in the Games if AITA doesn’t reconsider its decision to pair him with Paes.

“That is the way I am leaning right now (of not going to the Olympics unless partnered with Bopanna),but it is a big decision and I will discuss it with my family and people I feel matter before I put it down in writing to AITA on Sunday or Monday,” Bhupathi said.

AITA clarified again that they will not reconsider sending Bhupathi and Bopanna as a pair.

If things don’t work out in Bhupathi’s favour before June 21,which is International Tennis Federation’s deadline for country nominations,Bhupathi’s decision to drop out of men’s doubles may also jeopardise his chances,if any,of playing mixed doubles with Sania Mirza.

“I asked them (AITA) about mixed doubles and they are not willing to commit. They are not willing to say ‘you just won the French Open with her and you will be our team.’ They are taking the easy way out by saying that they will decide according to the performance at Wimbledon.

“It has happened in the past as well. Despite me winning the mixed at Australian Open in 2009 with Sania,when it came to deciding her partner for Commonwealth Games the next year,they went ahead with Leander saying he was the better ranked player. I am pretty sure something like that will happen this time as well.”

AITA has also confirmed that since mixed doubles is an on-site sign-up in the Olympics,they will wait to watch the player’s performance on grass at SW18.

It is learnt that the AITA has no plans to ban Bhupathi as reported in some sections of the media. A top AITA official said there was ‘no question of any ban’. “What do we ban him from? The question of banning him does not arise,” he added.

Incidentally,the Indian Olympic Association has thrown its weight behind AITA. Asking for a report on the matter,IOA chief VK Malhotra said it is the prerogative of the national federations to decide on team combinations,and that their decision shall be final.

Bhupathi has also sought help from sports minister Ajay Maken,hoping that he will be able to convince the federation that the country has a better chance of a medal if they send two teams and if he is paired with Bopanna. “I have put in some requests to the sports minister but he is also out of the country now and will not be able to respond before Monday. He can also,only advise them,AITA is ultimately the be all and end all,” he conceded.

Paes reiterates Bopanna preference

Paes also took the opportunity to make a statement on Saturday. “I have no reaction to the recent statements made by Mahesh Bhupati to the media. I have always maintained that I will play with whoever AITA choose and this continues to be my stand.It is a well known fact that when asked by the AITA,I have expressed my preference to play with Rohan Bopanna as my partner in the Olympics 2012,based on his physical fitness and big serve,” Paes said.

Bad day on court

It was a bad day in office for the Indians as Bhupathi and Bopanna,and Paes and his South African partner,Kevin Anderson crashed out of the AEGON Championships in London. While Bhupathi and Bopanna lost their quarterfinal to Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Canada’s Daniel Nestor,7-6(7) 6-4,Paes and Anderson went down to Janko Tipsarevic and Nenad Zimonjic 6-2 4-6 7-10.

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