New Delhi: India's sports ministry has backed away from the ongoing tennis impasse, with Ajay Maken tweeting on Tuesday that he had no intention of getting involved in India's selection for the men's doubles tennis team for the London Olympics beginning in just over a month's time.
"The sports ministry does not wish to be a part of the selection process of tennis. We had raised certain issues because of requests from certain iconic players. The sports ministry leaves it to the AITA to exercise any of the options in the best of national interests," tweeted Maken.
According to sources, for the second time Bhupathi has turned down AITA's offer to partner with Paes at the Olympics. AITA had mailed Bhupathi to reconsider his decision.
Earlier on Tuesday, a defiant All India Tennis Association (AITA) had stood by its decision to pair Leander Paes with Mahesh Bhupathi for the London Olympics, insisting that teaming the former with a junior player would be "most inappropriate". With Maken tweeting the sports ministry's stance, it appears Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna may be out in the cold.
Responding to the sports ministry's queries on the controversy that flared up after Bhupathi and Bopanna both refused to partner Paes citing their commitment to each other, AITA explained that the Bhupathi-Bopanna pair was never assured of an entry to the Olympics.
“Asking Leander to pair with a junior player would be the most inappropriate decision and will be deemed to be an insult to Leander Paes, who enjoys great respect in International Tennis Circuit,” was AITA’s official stance.
Lashing out at both Bhupathi and Bopanna, AITA said, "It should be understood that two players cannot make a pact with each other to keep the number one player out and publicly suggest in media that the No.1 player should go to Olympics with No. 5."
AITA explained that if it let Bhupathi and Bopanna pair up, then Paes would be forced to play with either Yuki Bhambri (ranked 306) or Vishnu Vardhan (207) since the more experienced Somdev Devvarman is injured. "It would be meaningless to send Leander with a junior player who has not played Grand Slam. Leander being the best player must be paired with either Rohan Bopanna or Mahesh Bhupathi.”
AITA was confident that the sports ministry would agree with its decision taken by it, but still gave five options for consideration. The first is to stick to the original selection of Paes and Bhupathi as a team, which the AITA selection committee deems as "best".
The second is to send Paes with Bopanna, which would "again mean that only one pair will go" and Bhupathi will miss out on Olympic participation. The third option is to send two teams -- Leander pairs with either Yuki or Vishnu and Bhupathi with Bopanna -- but AITA acknowledged that this may not necessarily be the "best" teams.
The fourth option is to send only Bhupathi and Bopanna to the London Olympics and that Paes decides not to participate. The fifth and final option is to pair Paes with a junior player and take disciplinary action against Bhupathi and Bopanna for refusing to abide by the decision of AITA’s selection committee.
Time is running out as the final date of submitting entries is June 21, which is just a couple of days away.
The crisis erupted after Bhupathi and Bopanna refused to partner Paes at the Olympics. Bhupathi had accused Paes of deceiving him. In turn, Paes' father Vece Paes accused Bopanna of back-stabbing both Leander and Mahesh. Earlier, on Monday, speaking to CNN-IBN from London, Bhupathi said he had rejected AITA's request to reconsider his decision not to partner Paes. Bhupathi and Bopanna have made it quite clear that they will not partner Paes.
(With inputs from PTI)