Veteran Leander Paes, the winner of 18 grand slam titles, will make his seventh Olympic appearance after he was named as Rohan Bopanna’s partner for the men’s doubles by the All India Tennis Association on Saturday.
Bopanna, ranked 10th in the world, had picked world number 125 Saketh Myneni as his preferred partner, putting in doubt the fate of Paes, who last week won the French Open mixed doubles title with Martina Hingis.
“Committee decided that the best bet for Indian tennis to win a medal at the Olympics would be Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna,” AITA chief Anil Khanna told reporters.
Bopanna said he admired Paes, who won a singles bronze medal at the Atlanta Games in 1996, but believed their styles of play were not complementary.
“The AITA Selection Committee has now made its decision after due consideration of my representation… I respect this decision and look forward to participating in Rio,” Bopanna said in a statement.
Bopanna will pair up with Sania Mirza, the world’s top-ranked women’s double player, in the mixed doubles in Rio.Giving the reasoning for pairing Sania with Bopanna,
Khanna said it was a question of court combination. “Rohan plays from the left side of the court and Sania from the right. Leander also plays from right. So we need to give this change,” Khanna said.
AITA also announced a seven-member squad for next month’s Asia/Oceania Group I tie against Korea in Chandigarh but the final announcement will be made on July 5.
Asked if one week is enough for Paes and Bopanna to sort out the differences that have piled up in years, Davis Cup coach Zeeshan said, something is better than nothing.
“It’s better to be together at least for a week, than not being together at all. Dialogue is important. Now that everything has been sorted, we are set for the Games,” he said.
Yuki Bhambri, the highest-ranked singles player in the country at number 147, Myneni (ranked 150 in singles and 125 in doubles), Bopanna (ranked 10 in doubles), Paes (ranked 46 in doubles), Ramkumar Ramanathan (224 in singles) Vishnu Vardhan and Sumit Nagal are in the squad.
Vardhan and Nagal will be the reserve players while four playing members will be announced on July 5.
Without naming either Yuki or Myneni, Khanna said some players are coming back from injury, so all seven are in squad.
“There’s still some time so there is no necessity to announce the final squad today.
It has been learnt that Myneni, who recently recovered from a shoulder injury, may not be part of the playing squad.