LONDON: Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna heaved a sigh of relief as the All India Tennis Association on Thursday allowed the duo to team up for the upcoming London Olympics after both of them adamantly refused to partner Leander Paes in the mega-event.
“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,” they said in a joint statement.
“We are delighted to have been nominated as a team to the Men’s Doubles event at the Games of the XXX Olympiad. The events of the last few days have been extremely challenging for all concerned, but we respect them as necessary steps in this process.
“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 greatly appreciative of the support we have received from across the world,” the statement added.
As far as AITA’s decision to pair up Leander with Sania Mirza for the mixed double event, Bhupathi said, “I think we need to wait till 28th (of this month) if Sania qualifies.
“Obviously our first step was to go to London. We are hoping that she gets a wildcard and goes to London as well. They (AITA) told me that it depends on our performance in Wimbledon also.”
In the past, both Leander and Bhupathi kept aside their differences to represent the country, but things seemed to have reached a point of no return this time around.
Asked about his reluctance to partner Paes in London, the Bangalorean said, “Because I am not really only interested in playing in the Olympics, I am also interested in doing as well.
“The last four times we did play but we didn’t win. Hopefully, a new combination will work out and we can do something different. I hope I can put my money where my mouth is.”
“There have been a lot of twists and turns and lot of phone calls being made (over the past few days), but I am glad that two teams are going and four of us get to experience the Olympics and give it a good shot.”
Bhupathi further said that Paes should not have said a few things in the “public domain”.
Bopanna felt the AITA made the right decision. “It was an extremely timely decision by them. It was not easy for them but they have made the right decision,” he said.
Refusing to comment on the bickering between Paes and Bhupathi, Bopanna said that the goal was always to “fight all the way to get India a medal.”
Bhupathi said they will use Wimbledon as practice ground for the Olympics.
“I am just happy that we are going to London and we are going to use the next one month preparing and be ready. We have been preparing for the past seven months and we can use Wimbledon as a great practice venue for the Olympics. Happy that we are over with the entire episode and can use the next 3-4 days to prepare for Wimbledon.”
About Vishnu Vardhan, who has been selected to partner Paes in men’s doubles in London, Bhupathi said, “Vishnu is a dangerous player. I am really happy for him. Hopefully, it’s all settled and we can move on now. I hope for the best.”