I'm playing for the Indian flag: Leander Paes
India's tennis star Leander Paes has finally broken his silence on the ongoing controversy wherein eight of the country's top tennis players Somdev Devvarman, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna, Yuki Bhambri, Sanam Singh, Vishnu Vardhan, Divij Saran and Sanam Singh have refused to make themselves available for the February 1-3 Davis Cup fixture against South Korea in Delhi following the AITA refusing to accept some of their demands for a series of administrative changes.
“My availability for the Davis Cup has never been in doubt. I’m playing for the flag and for the people of India,” Paes told MiD DAY from Melbourne yesterday, where he is preparing for the year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open. The 39-year-old six-time Olympian and former India Davis Cup skipper will partner World No 4 Czech Radek Stepanek at Melbourne Park.
The AITA yesterday picked, besides Paes of course, VM Ranjeet, Vijayant Malik and Purav Raja — all of whom will be making their Davis Cup debut.
World No 3 doubles player Paes will team up with World No 155 Raja for the doubles rubber, while Ashwin Vijayaraghavan and Arjun Khade have been named as reserves for the Asia/Oceania Zone Group I tie against South Korea.
When asked what he thought of partnering rookie Raja for the doubles rubber, the 13-time Grand Slam winner shot back: “This hasn’t happened to me for the first time, has it?” in obvious reference to last year’s London Olympics, where he was forced to play with rookie Vishnu Vardhan in the men’s doubles event after both Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna refused to partner him claiming they were a pair themselves.