Bhupathi-Bopanna-Paes Tennis row. Ego takes over pride.

I always had the belief that sports & politics could never mix up. I guess most of you might be having similar thoughts. But thanks to the recent tennis controversy, my belief has been proved wrong. In-fact it has been shattered. It can be considered, politics coming into picture at the management level of a sport. But among players? Now, that is a lot disturbing.

Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi

So it all began when the All India Tennis Association (AITA) announced that Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi would represent India in men’s doubles event at the London Olympics 2012. Soon after this announcement Bhupathi refused to pair up with Paes & also went on calling him as a “backstabber”. Adding to the controversy Rohan Bopanna also refused to partner with Paes for the Olympics. Finally, the AITA announced that 2 teams would participate in London Olympics 2012. Leander Paes to play with Vishnu Vardhan, a 207 world doubles ranked player. Bhupathi & Bopanna would play together as per their wish. Also as a compromise to Paes, he is paired with Sania Mirza for the mixed doubles event.

Let us note that Leander Paes is ranked amongst top 10 players in the world doubles rankings (7th position) & also the only Indian to be in top 10. Being in world doubles top 10, Paes automatically qualifies for the Olympics. I am not saying that Bhupathi –Bopanna are not a good pair. It is. But, isn’t it unfair with Leander that being India`s best player, he has to play with such a lowly ranked player in the prestigious tournament of Olympics?

Now, I really don`t know what differences are there between Paes & Bhupathi & let us not discuss that part also. But once a decision had been taken by the AITA, the players had to respect the board, their decision & play. There is a selection committee to decide who plays with whom. I don`t think the players should question & demand for their choice. Yes, putting a preference of choice in a polite manner is still understandable. One needs to keep in mind that board & the nation are above the players & not vice-versa.

Mahesh Bhupathi & Rohan Boppana

In fact this behavior by Bhupathi & Bopanna appeared childish to me. Usually these things happen among children. If X had ditched Y sometime back, then Y will remember that & ditch X whenever he gets a chance. India`s best tennis players doing such a thing is disgraceful. It was disgraceful, not only to themselves, but to the sport, to AITA & to all the millions of fans as well. It was not some society level tournament or a college level game for what players were picked to play. They were picked to represent India at the Olympics. Playing for one`s nation, its citizens itself is a biggest pride one can get. These differences, ego issues are very small things when compared to the pride in playing for India. Sadly ego has taken over pride for in this case. By refusing to partner Paes, Mahesh & Rohan have set a wrong example to the junior players & aspiring players of tennis. That message sent out is, “if things don`t work out your way, you can always arm twist the authorities & make them your way”. This is definitely not good for the future of the game.

We also need to look the way AITA handled this issue. It could have acted stricter & be firm on whatever they had decided earlier. According to Bhupathi & Bopanna, they had already informed AITA their desire to play each other & would not pair with Paes. If that was the case, AITA could have discussed the entire issue amongst players, get a solution & then announce the teams. Instead first they announced the team. Players should dissatisfaction. The episode became public. A mess was created & after that AITA sought of a solution. India’s External Affairs Minister SM Krishna who also happens to be honorary life president of the AITA had come in to break the deadlock between the players & the AITA officials. There are reports in the media that some action would be taken against Mahesh & Rohan for this behavior. Well keeping the future of the game in mind,  guess this step has be taken. So that such things don`t get repeated.

As said above, Paes & Mirza play together in the mixed doubles. The pair is good. No doubt in that. But going by the momentum Mahesh & Sania would have been a better choice. They have won 2 grand slam titles together which also includes the recent French Open victory. Mahesh & Sania are also playing together at the Wimbledon which is to begin next week. Guess the AITA were left with no option but to do this to try & keep everyone happy.

Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi have served our country for more that 20 years now, winning numerous grand slam titles for India. I do have high regards for both these individuals. They have made us feel proud many a times. But when your heroes act in an unthinkable manner, it surely is saddening. Remember the chest bumps that Paes & Bhupathi gave each other on the courts. And now ? They just can`t bear each other. Seems like we are watching a nightmare. A terrible nightmare.

It takes us to the conclusion that everybody is equally responsible for what has happened, the players as well as the AITA. London Olympics begins on July 27, 2012. Yes, I would still cheer for both the teams. After all, both these are representing India at the Olympics.

Photo courtesy: CNN IBN for Leander-Bhupathi image. Indiatimes for Rohan-Mahesh image.

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