New Delhi: Indian woman tennis player Sania Mirza ripped apart the All India Tennis Association (AITA) for using her as a bait to pacify warring Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi ahead of the 2012 London Olympics.
Sania, breaking her silence for the first time on the selection controversy, also came down heavily on the two stalwarts and Paes' father Vece Paes. Sania lashed out at the AITA for pairing her with Paes in the mixed doubles event as a bait so that the latter agrees to participate in the London Games.
"As an Indian woman belonging to the 21st century, what I find disillusioning is the humiliating manner in which I was put up as a bait to try and pacify one of the disgruntled stalwarts of Indian tennis."
Sania Mirza slammed AITA for using her as a bait to pacify warring Paes and Bhupathi ahead of the London Olympics.
"While I feel honoured and privileged to have been chosen to partner Leander Paes, the manner and timing of the announcement reeks of male chauvinism where a two-time Grand Slam champion, who has been India's No.1 women's tennis player for almost a decade in singles and doubles is offered in compensation to partner one of the feuding champions purely in order to lure him into accepting to play with a men's player he does not wish to play with," she said.
She termed the arrangement by the AITA a "blatant humiliation".
"This kind of blatant humiliation of Indian womanhood needs to be condemned even if it comes from the highest controlling body of tennis in our country."
Sania chose to end her silence on the day when she along with Somdev Devvarman were given wildcard entries for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
She hit out at Paes for demanding a written assurance from her to take part in the mixed doubles at the Olympics.
"Since the day AITA announced the team for the Olympics a lot of questions have been raised by friends, colleagues, their parents and of course, by the media. As I thought these questions were purely hypothetical without my having qualified into the London Olympics, I did not think it was appropriate for me to respond to them at that point of time. However, now that I am officially a part of the greatest sporting event in the world, I think it is imperative for me to clarify my feelings," Sania said in a statement.
Sania praised rookie Vishnu Vardhan, who has been paired with Paes in the men's doubles event at the Olympics.
She said it was "demeaning for me, Vishnu and Leander Paes" for Paes to consider playing with Vishnu only if she gave a written assurance to play mixed doubles with him.
"To Leander Paes, I would like to point out that Vishnu Vardhan is an extremely talented player, who I had the privilege of partnering. We went on to win a silver medal for India at the 2010 Asian Games, when all the three male stalwarts of Indian tennis had opted to stay away from Guangzhou. I am convinced that he can go one better when pitted with someone as good as Leander as partner."
"For Leander to consider partnering with Vishnu only if he has a written assurance from me to play mixed (as Vece uncle has suggested in his television interviews) is, I think demeaning for me, Vishnu and Leander Paes," she said.
Sania was also critical of Paes' father.
"To Dr. Vece Paes, who has on camera asked me to give in writing about my intention of partnering his son for the mixed doubles event at the Olympics, I would like to point out that my commitment is to my country," she said.
Paes reportedly wanted a written assurance from the AITA that Sania will play only with him in the mixed doubles in the Olympics and not with Mahesh Bhupathi, her regular partner on the tour. Sania and Bhupathi recently had won the French Open mixed doubles.
Sania, however, on her part has always maintained that he wants to play with Bhupathi in the mixed doubles in Olympics but was happy with anybody AITA picked to partner her.
The AITA first picked Paes and Bhupathi to play the men's doubles. But they were forced to send two teams after Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, who are also regular partners on the circuit, refused to team up with Paes.
While allowing Bhupathi and Bopanna to have their way, the AITA made it clear that Sania will only pair with Paes in the mixed doubles, where they have a real chance of winning a medal.
An upset Sania said she is ready to pair with anybody and will do every possible thing to win a medal for the country.
"For the sake of India, I am committed to play with Leander Paes or Mahesh Bhupathi or Rohan Bopanna or Somdev Devvarman or Vishnu Vardhan or any other person that my country feels I am good enough to partner. There should never ever be a question on this although if asked, I am entitled to have my preferences. I will do everything I possibly can to win a medal for India."
Lashing out hard against Bhupathi, Sania said she was happy that her mixed doubles partner chose to sacrifice his pairing with her to keep his team with Rohan Bopanna intact.
"Mahesh Bhupathi has firmly stood by his commitment to play together with his men's doubles partner, Rohan Bopanna as he genuinely believed it was good for India. However, in the process, he sacrificed the commitment he made to me to try and win an Olympic medal together for India. Each person has his or her own priorities and I would like to believe that Mahesh made his choice in the best interests of the country," said Sania.