Five-time Olympian Leander Paes will compete in the London Olympics after all. Paes confirmed this to MiD DAY from London yesterday moments before he and Czech Radek Stepanek began their Wimbledon men's doubles campaign against the Columbian combine of Alejandro Falla and Santiago Giraldo. Paes will partner Russian Elena Vesnina in the mixed doubles category at Wimbledon.
“There is no way I will let my Olympic dream crumble to petty politics,” Paes told MiD DAY in reference to compatriots Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna turning down the All India Tennis Association’s (AITA) original selection of either player pairing up with Paes, the country’s highest ranked (World No 7) doubles player. Bhupathi-Bopanna claimed that they were not available for selection individually as they had teamed up together at the start of the season with a view to participating in the Olympics together. The AITA then named two men’s doubles teams — Paes with rookie Vishnu Vardhan and Bhupathi with Bopanna, and one mixed doubles team — Paes with Sania Mirza. Soon after, reports emerged that a peeved Paes would give the Games a miss going by a letter he had written to AITA threatening to do withdraw from the Olympics if he were made to play with a rookie player while Bhupathi and Bopanna are paired together.
Paes however has now made it clear that he’s in no mood to quit. “I’ve worked hard for this all my life. This will be my sixth Olympics and I do not intend to let go of this opportunity. I’ve always enjoyed playing for my country and will give it my best shot in London too. It will be great to have another Olympic medal alongside the one (India’s only Olympic tennis medal — a bronze in the men’s singles at the 1996 Atlanta Games) I already have back home,” he added.
When asked to react to Sania’s latest comments that she’s been ‘used as a bait’ to appease him, Paes shot back: “I don’t want to react to whatever anyone has said. All I can say is that the AITA, being the national sports federation, has picked the team and I am no one to go against that.”