Leander Paes to partner Bopanna in Rio

Rohan Bopanna, the world No.10 doubles player, had exercised his right to pick his partner for the Rio Olympics for men’s doubles and intimated his choice to the All India Tennis Association (AITA) on Friday.

Paes recently completed a career slam after winning the French Open mixed doubles along with Swiss great Martina Hingis at Roland Garros.   -  R.V. Moorthy

The All India Tennis Association (AITA) announced the team of Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes for the men’s double event in the Olympics to be staged in Rio de Janeiro from August 5.

After the selection committee met under the chairmanship of former Davis Cup captain SP Misra at the RK Khanna Stadium here on Saturday, the president of AITA, Anil Khanna, addressed the media and clarified on the choice of teams and the views of Bopanna expressed in his ‘’well meaning’’ letter in which he had opted for > Saketh Myneni as his partner.

 

It was also announced that the world No.1 women’s doubles player Sania Mirza would have the second highest ranked player in the country, Prarthana Thombare (209), as her doubles partner for Rio, and that Sania and Bopanna would be the nomination for mixed doubles.

Leander 'honoured'

"To play for the flag has always been the greatest inspiration for me. I am humbled by the love showered upon me by the people. Their overwhelming and unconditional support has been my pillar of strength and motivation throughout my career.

"The honour to represent India at Rio Olympics 2016 is a dream come true. I am thankful to the All India Tennis Association for bestowing me this opportunity to wear the Tri-colours on my heart once again,” Leander Paes said in a statement.

As the president of the Asian Tennis Federation (ATF), Anil Khanna was able to note that it was a great thing that Bopanna ensured the Indian doubles entry by reaching top-10, but reiterated that there was no fear of India not getting an entry in men’s doubles. With Paes ranked 46, India was assured of a men’s doubles entry even if Bopanna had not broken into the top-10.

It was also pointed out that the ‘’ITF place’’ for regional representation would have ensured an entry, in any case, as the Indian pair was the best ranked in Asia in terms of combined rank, ahead of the next best team featuring Kei Nishikori of Japan.

Even though the rankings weighed heavily in favour of Bopanna, it was pointed out that he, as a left court player had a better chance for success with Sania who plays the right court.

Meanwhile, the selection committee, which had Balram Singh, Nandan Bal, Zeeshan Ali, Anil Khanna, Bharat Oza and CS Sunder Raju as the other members apart from the Chairman SP Misra, announced a seven-member squad for the Davis Cup Asia Oceania group-I tie against Korea to be played on grass in Chandigarh from July 15 to 17. The winner will qualify for the World Group play-off.

Yuki Bhambri, Saketh Myneni, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Rohan Bopanna, Sumit Nagal, Vishnu Vardhan and Leander Paes have been selected for the tie, keeping in mind the fact that it would give the players a good chance to build a rapport before the Olympics, along with Zeeshan Ali who would be the captain of the Indian tennis squad for Rio. The ITF has to be given the names of four playing members by July 5.

‘’Dialogue is important. Getting them together is important. It should help’’, said Zeeshan Ali, who was the captain of the Fed Cup team and serves as a coach with the Davis Cup team.

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