Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes have taken more pot shots at each other than the 29 titles they have won as a pair – three Grand Slams and 26 ATP events. On Monday, another chapter was added to their history as Bhupathi, without naming Paes directly, criticised the 43-year-old and held him responsible for India’s poor show in the men’s doubles event at the Rio Games. He also stated that India’s poor performance wasn’t a surpriseSpeaking to the media on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the 11even Sports Inter-school table tennis championship at Khar Gymkhana, Bhupathi said the men’s doubles team of Paes and Rohan Bopanna, who got knocked out in the first round, losing in straight sets to the Polish pair of Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, went in cold for the quadrennial sporting spectacle.
“No preparation is the right word. They didn’t practise; they didn’t play any match together. Just one match against a depleted Korean Davis Cup team is not the way to prepare. The Olympics demands more. In doubles, that wasn’t going to happen,” said the winner of 12 Grand Slam – Four men’s doubles and eight mixed doubles -titles.
Bhupathi reckoned that the controversy around the Rio team make-up was expected with the kind of build-up there was prior to the team selection. “I think everybody expected it and everybody was keeping quiet until it actually surfaced. I am just happy it didn’t get out of hand,” observed the 42-year-old. He was also cheeky in suggesting that there would be controversies in the future too. “It is the third Olympics where we had controversies over team make up. The same thing will hopefully happen even in the next three Games.”
Bhupathi was, however, happy with the way the rest of the team performed. “Mixed doubles was our best shot at the medal. We came so close but were unfortunate.”