Barely six months after he announced his unavailability for national duty in 2014, Leander Paes found himself in the thick of things again after he was drafted into the Indian team for next month’s Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
The 41-year-old will partner Rohan Bopanna in the doubles for the first time after they fell out over the selection fracas for the London Olympics two years ago. Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri will be the two singles specialists and Sanam Singh and Saketh Myneni will make their Asian Games debut.
Interestingly, while Paes has made himself available for the Asian Games, which begins on September 19, he still hasn’t committed to being a part of the Davis Cup team that will play Serbia from September 12-14. The multiple Grand Slam doubles title winner is currently fighting a court case for his daughter’s custody and is expecting a court hearing close to the Davis Cup dates. The selection panel will meet to select the squad for the Serbia tie on August 13.
His inclusion is seen by some as a step backwards with suggestions that the selectors should have persisted with the youngsters, who have notched up two impressive Davis Cup wins over Chinese Taipei and South Korea. Selection committee chief Anil Dhupar, however, defended the decision. “He has been performing well and is our most experienced player. There is no reason why he should not be on the team,” Dhupar said.
Meanwhile, Sania Mirza will spearhead women’s challenge along with Ankita Raina. Sania had won a singles bronze and mixed doubles silver with Vishnu Vardhan at Guangzhou four years ago. Prarthana Thombare, Snehadevi Reddy, Natasha Palha and Rishika Sunkara are others in the squad. Sania’s mother Nasima will captain the women’s squad, while Paes’ father, Vece, is team doctor.