India’s tennis ace Mahesh Bhupathi is known to be a man of few words. However, yesterday the 12-time Grand Slam champ spoke for an extended period, spewing venom against the All-India Tennis Association (AITA) most of the time, during a press conference at a city hotel.
Bhupathi had organised the media briefing to clarify his stand on the recent two-year ‘ban’ slapped on him and partner Rohan Bopanna for their role in the recent Olympics selection fiasco. Bhupathi and Bopanna had refused to partner India’s top-ranked player Leander Paes for the Olympics claiming they were a doubles pair themselves. After some serious mud-slinging, Leander played alongside rookie Vishnu Vardhan, while the duo were nominated as India’s second doubles team at the Games.
Bhupathi however blamed the AITA for the mess. “Rohan and myself made our intentions of playing together at the Games clear to AITA at the beginning of the year and they seemed to have no problem with it. Had they told us then that the top-ranked player would have his choice of partner, we would have had no choice but to accept the same. Even later, the AITA never made an attempt to get Leander and myself together in one room to sort things out,” said the Bangalorean, who added that the federation has, in fact, enjoyed the rift between him and his erstwhile partner, Paes.
“Anil Khanna (AITA president) has enjoyed the rift between Leander and me as no other. He has redefined the term ‘divide and rule’ and at this year’s Olympics he used Leander’s shoulder to fire the gun against me. Unfortunately, the media terms this a Bhupathi-Paes rift and the true underbelly is left unquestioned,” said Bhupathi, who claimed AITA “put spokes in the wheel” whenever he tried to give back something to the game by “running tennis events, building tennis courts, raising money for talented kids or opening academies.”
Finally, and in a sombre tone, the doubles specialist said he may never don India colours again. “I’ve already played my last match for India. My lawyers are exploring the legal route (against the ban), but I won’t be considered for selection by AITA anyway. And after the ban… two years away, I don’t think I’ll be able to play. Next year, is going to be my last on the ATP Tour… I’m getting old,” he said.
Five things that'll change after Hesh blast
(1) Bhupathi will never wear India colours again. (He says he’s already played his last match for India as AITA won’t consider him for selection in future anyway)
(2) Bhupathi and Bopanna will never play together again. (Bhupathi says he’s at the fag end of his career and split with Bopanna to allow the latter to move on)
(3) Bopanna will get back to his original and more successful doubles partnership with Pakistani Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi. (Bhupathi believes that’s the right way to go for Bopanna and that the duo will win a Grand Slam together soon)
(4) Bopanna’s India career will not be cut short as he is not part of Bhupathi’s anti-AITA campaign. (Bhupathi says he asked Bopanna not to join him at yesterday’s press conference as he still has eight to 10 years of tennis in him)
(5) Bhupathi and Paes will never play together again. (Bhupathi believes he won’t be up for Davis Cup selection anyway, so there’s no question of him and Paes playing together for India again. On the ATP Tour, they separated last year)