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Storm in tennis scene mars Olympic optimism

Saba Nayakan Kolkata | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on June 24, 2012

Will team ring in Olympics: A file combo picture of tennis players Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan.

DOUBLE FAULT

At a time when the entire nation should be rejoicing for gaining London Olympic berths in archery and athletics, it seems the sporting fraternity of the country is shocked by the acrimonious happenings on the tennis front.

Though one has not heard the last of the bitter war of ego between India's three top tennis players – Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna – the game's apex body in the country, the All India Tennis Association (AITA), has given its verdict “in the best interest of the country.”

The AITA's decision to pair Leander with Vishnu Vardhan, whose doubles' ranking hovers beyond 200, ought to have devastated Leander but he was gracious enough to keep his emotions in check and refrained from making any statement thus far.

Logically, at that point of time the AITA had nothing much to do after both Mahesh and Rohan declined to pair with Leander. Leander had expected the National body to at least ensure Rohan partnered him.

Realising the futility of forcing an unwilling player to play with Leander, the AITA might have thought it prudent to have at least one pair with a reasonable chance of landing a medal. Also that Mahesh-Rohan pair had qualified for the Games strengthened the team's claims as well.

Leander, who has in the past, placed the country before self, is hoping that the AITA will at least ensure India's best woman doubles' player, Sania Mirza-Malik, partner him in the mixed doubles. If that happens the Asian Games' champion pair will have a reasonable chance of winning a second medal from this discipline.

Sania, who won two Grand Slam titles with Mahesh in recent years, may not be inclined to pair with Leander in London.

As one can foresee, another round of battle is on the cards unless the AITA ensures it has the guts to enforce its decision to field Sania in the mixed doubles with Leander.

What happens if Sania refuses to play with Leander once her application for a wild card entry is accepted? Or Sania is denied one!

In either case, Leander is not on a firm ground. The tennis icon, looking to play in his record sixth Olympic Games, is facing an uncertain situation. The legend deserved a much better farewell. At 39, Leander does not have too many days on the tennis court. Rio de Janeiro is four years away!

Elsewhere there was much joy for Indian archers and athletes as three more made it to the quadrennial Games. Oblivious of the “happenings in tennis” the Indian men’s archery team of Jayanta Talukdar, Tarundeep Rai and Rahul Banerjee, earned a team quota place from the final Olympic Qualifying Tournament that concluded at Ogden (US).

Add to this the Indian women’s team of L. Bombayla Devi, Chekrovolu Swuro and Deepika Kumari, which earned the team quota place at the World Championship last year. This is for the second time both the men’s and women’s teams qualified for Olympics, the first occasion being Athens in 2004. Only recurve bow archery is recognised as an Olympic sport.

Gravity fighter Sahana Kumari became the latest athlete to attain the Olympic B qualifying mark. The high jumper cleared 1.92-m thus not only made it to London but also erased the National record that stood at 1.91 in favour of Bobby Aloysius.

Like shooting, archery is also a precision sport where the Indians stand a fair chance of landing a medal. All the track and field stars who have booked their places at the London Games, have come through `B’ Standard which does not place any of them near the medal standard.

> saba@thehindu.co.in

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Published on June 24, 2012
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