The crisis in Indian tennis took a turn for the worse with Leander Paes threatening to walk out of the Olympics should he be paired with a junior player for the men's doubles event.
He reiterated his willingness to play with either Mahesh Bhupathi or Rohan Bopanna but not with a lower ranked player like Vishnu Vardhan or Yuki Bhambri.
Paes also discussed the mixed doubles pairing for the 2012 Games, expressing keenness to partner Sania Mirza in the event. Paes is ranked No. 7 in the world and Sania is ranked 12th, giving them a combined rank of 19, allowing them to qualify for the event, but Bhupathi (ranked 15th) and Sania don't qualify directly since they would be ranked 27.
The men's doubles combination for the London Olympics would be known only tomorrow after the All India Tennis Association (AITA) failed to arrive at a decision despite hectic parleys with feuding players on the issue today.
Tomorrow is the last date for submitting entries to International Tennis Federation (ITF) and AITA is still trying to convince Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna to drop their demand of playing together.
The officials are in touch with all the three players, who are in London.
The last ditch efforts are on but sources say Bhupathi and Bopanna will not change their stand that they be paired together or not considered at all.
AITA are then left with no choice but to pair Leander Paes with inexperienced youngsters Vishnu Vardhan or Yuki Bhambri, which means that India's medal chances would diminish in the absence of a strong team. Hence, AITA is still trying to work out a formula which not only gives India a chance to be in medal contention but also resolves the players' issues.
AITA does not have too many options and that's why their job has become all the more difficult. It has been reported in the media that Paes, who has got a strong backing from the tennis body, is reluctant to compete with a youngster.
Even though Paes had said thorough his father Dr Vece that he was ready to team up with any player which AITA chooses for him. The Sports ministry had yesterday left it to AITA to take a decision which is in the best interest of the nation. The ministry's stand came after AITA dashed off a detailed reply which outlined the logic behind pairing the feuding duo of Paes and Bhupathi despite the latter's opposition.
Ministry had sought an explanation from AITA after Bhupathi questioned the selection and asked why the AITA was insisting on sending just one team when India was entitled to two slots.
Bhupathi and Bopanna want AITA to choose another partner for Paes, who has gained direct individual entry to the London draw based on the basis of his top-10 ranking.