Leander Paes once again ruffled some feathers when he said India didn’t send their best team in the mixed doubles event at the Rio Olympics, which was a big chance for the country to win a medal. He called it a sad state of affairs that despite winning four Grand Slams in the run up to the Rio Games, he wasn’t considered to partner Sania Mirza.
“I’m someone who has a long-sight, we’ve got the Asian Games coming up in 18 months and the Olympics in four years, whether I’m around or not around, got to nurture these guys. Otherwise four years from now, it would again be a tussle for who is playing the Olympics and come back without anything,” he said while sitting alongside Saketh Myneni post their four set marathon loss against Rafa Nadal and Marc Lopez which gave Spain an unassailable 3-0 lead in the Davis Cup World Group Playoff.
“I can very, very clearly say that the past two Olympics, we didn’t put the best teams forward. This Olympics – the mixed doubles – was a huge opportunity. What more does a man have to do than win four Grand Slams in fourteen months? There were no other tournaments to win, I couldn’t create more tournaments. And still not get a chance to play. Sad,!” he added.
India fielded Rohan Bopanna and Mirza in the Rio Games with the duo finishing fourth after losing to Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram in the semi-finals and Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka in the bronze medal playoff. Paes had partnered Bopanna in the men’s doubles event where they crashed out in the first round itself.
The team selection for the Olympics has been a contentious topic in Indian tennis and created a huge controversy ahead of the 2012 London Olympics which saw plenty of mud-slinging comments from all involved. Eventually, Mirza partnered with Paes and they lost in the quarters to the eventual champions Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka. In the men’s doubles, Paes teamed up with Vishnu Vardhan and Bopanna played with Mahesh Bhupathi – both teams lost in the second round.
Paes also said changing the doubles partnering of Paes and Myneni for the Davis Cup contests would be a crazy decision even if the decision lay in the hands of the selection committee and the team captain. “This is for the selection committee and the captain to decide. But considering the way we played today against a gold medal winning team comprising of 14-time Grand Slam champion and who has won a Slam well, would be crazy to switch something around. But, at the end of the day, I’m here to support the team,” stated the legendary Davis Cupper who is one short of the Davis Cup doubles record of 43 wins.