The All India Tennis Association on Saturday turned a deaf ear to Rohan Bopanna’s choice of partner – Saketh Myneni – and paired him with Leander Paes for the men’s doubles event at the Rio Olympics.
Bopanna and world no. 1 Sania Mirza were picked for the mixed doubles while Sania will partner youngster Prarthana Thombare, India’a second highest ranked player at 205, in the women’s doubles.
Though Bopanna said he would “respect AITA’s decision” he added that “he is not compatible with the Paes’ style of play and they were not a good combination together”.
“I have chosen Saketh based on a careful weighing of whose game will complement mine at Rio, given my own skills, strengths and weaknesses. As you will see from my track record, I have consistently had success with partners who have big weapons, a serve, a forehand,” Bopanna said on Saturday.
“In that sense, the ranking of the player in doubles is far less important than what he brings to the partnership. I have much admiration for Leander Paes and his many achievements, but unfortunately we have not been able to put together a good combination despite our best efforts and I do not believe our styles of play are either compatible or complementary. Considering that this is a team event where two individuals need to gel together to do well, regardless of individual achievements, it is the team and the combination that matters,” he added.
Bopanna had conveyed his choice of partner to the AITA selection committee on Friday.
Paes in Davis Cup squad
In a move to bring camaraderie between Paes and Bopanna, the AITA named a seven-member squad rather than the usual six for the upcoming Davis Cup tie in Chadigarh against South Korea from July 15 to 17.
Paes was included in the squad in the eleventh hour but the final team for the tie will be announced on July 5. Olympic captain and Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali hoped that the players would gel together and find their rhythm for the South Korea tie.
“We did not have Leander in mind for the Davis Cup because he had ruled himself out earlier. But keeping Rio in mind we have named seven players to accommodate
Leander. That gives us a chance to interact, practice with him but I’m still not sure whether he will play or not,” Zeeshan told this paper. “The whole idea is to get together, prepare and get ready for the Olympics.”
‘Dream come true’
Paes was over the moon over his selection and said “it is a dream come true moment”. “To play for the flag has always been the greatest inspiration for me. I am humbled by the love showered upon me by the people. The honour to represent India at Rio Olympics 2016 is a dream come true,” Paes said.
Men’s doubles: Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes. Women’s doubles: Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna.
Mixed doubles: Sania Mirza and Prarthana Thombare. Captain: Zeeshan Ali
Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Saketh Myneni, Sumit Nagal, Yuki Bhambri, Vishnu Vardhan