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Bopanna and Bhupathi to play together at Olympics

June 21, 2012


Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna. -Photo by AFP

NEW DELHI: Mahesh Bhupathi and regular partner Rohan Bopanna will play together at the London Olympics after India's tennis association backtracked on a controversial decision to split up the pair.

India would field two men's doubles teams in London, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) said on Thursday after a player revolt over the original decision to name Bhupathi and former partner Leander Paes, who no longer speak to each other, as the only pair.

“In the given circumstances, the best option before the AITA is of sending two pairs,” federation president Anil Khanna told reporters.

Bhupathi, not on speaking terms with Paes after their second bitter split last year, had threatened to boycott the Games if he and Bopanna were separated.

Bopanna, who had split up with his partner Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan to partner with Bhupathi last year in order to prepare for the Olympics, also rejected an AITA offer to partner Paes, whose top-10 ranking gives him direct entry, and said India should field two pairs.

Paes, who won three grand-slam titles with Bhupathi in the late 1990s, will now partner Vishnu Vardhan, ranked outside the top 200 in doubles.

“The AITA agrees that this decision is unfair to Paes...but in the given circumstances, which is not 100 percent tennis circumstance, this is the best option,” said Khanna, who also heads the Asian Tennis Federation.

In mixed doubles, Paes will team up with Sania Mirza. Khanna was optimistic of Paes accepting the compromise.

“Leander is undoubtedly the most patriotic player...AITA holds him in very high esteem and appeals to him to accept this decision.”

Bhupathi and Bopanna said in a joint statement that they were delighted with the decision.

“The events of the last few days have been extremely challenging,” they added. “In making each of our decisions, we were guided by our strong convictions regarding what we believed was fair and we are pleased that this is reflected in the outcome.

“We are excited that we will be playing together at the Olympics and our sole focus is now on our team's preparations for the Games.”

Khanna, however, warned that the matter was not closed and said the AITA would consider action against Bhupathi and Bopanna after the July 27-August 12 Olympics.