Vishnu Vardhan has been there, done that, as far as being part of an Olympic selection fiasco is concerned. The 28-year-old tennis player was paired up with Leander Paes for the 2012 London Olympics when both Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi refused to play alongside Paes.
Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes. (inset) Vishnu Vardhan (right), Saketh Myneni (left) Pics/AFP, Getty images
Four years since, a similar scenario has unfolded, with Bopanna, ranked 10th in the world in doubles, once again not preferring to partner Paes (currently ranked 46), and writing to the All India Tennis Association to pair him up with Saketh Myneni (ranked 125) instead for the men’s doubles event at the Rio Olympics. The AITA selection committee is set to pick India’s Rio-bound team today.
It’s a common practise in tennis for players to pick their partner, so if Rohan has decided to pick Saketh, I’m sure he would have put in a lot of thought into it before writing to AITA. Besides, since Rohan’s in the Top 10, making him India’s highest ranked men’s doubles player currently, he also has the right to choose his partner,” Vardhan told mid-day from Uzbekistan yesterday, where he is currently playing in a Challenger series.
Vardhan has seen both Bopanna-Myneni and Paes-Bopanna share court space.
“I was in the reserves for India’s Davis Cup match away against Uzbekistan when Paes-Bopanna lost in the doubles rubber in 2012. I’ve also watched them play in tandem and beat Serbia in Bangalore a couple of years later.
But Saketh and Rohan are both big built and make up a decent pair too,” added Vardhan, quickly going on to clarify that he’s not for a moment suggesting that Paes-Bopanna aren’t good together.
“I’m a huge Leander fan. In fact, I started playing tennis in 1996, the same year he won India a bronze medal at the Atlanta Games. He’s a brilliant mentor and thinker of the game. I remember, four years ago, there was a similar selection issue. But no sooner did AITA announce that I would be partnering Leander, he immediately swung into action and had his team get in touch with me. They got me to Los Angeles, where I had a three-week training session with his coach Rick Leach. Leander also ensured that I came to London early, so that I would get acclimatised better. We ended up losing to the second seeds and eventual silver medal-winning French pair of Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6-7, 6-4, 3-6) but that experience has kept me in good stead till date. Leander’s a legend and I sincerely hope and pray he fulfills his dream of playing in a world record seventh Olympics."
Meanwhile, sources claim that while AITA may not accede to Bopanna’s request and instead pair him up with Paes, India’s highest ranked men’s doubles player (Bopanna) will be paired alongside Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles event.