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BHUPATHI SAYS PAES IS A LIAR

Adding fuel to the fire over Olympic tennis team selection row, Mahesh Bhupathi on Monday accused Leander Paes of lying to him on more than one occasion. In an interview to Times Now news channel, Bhupathi alleged that Paes changed partner during a tournament without informing him in November 2001.

Mahesh Bhupathi and All India Tennis Association are at loggerheads over the latter's decision to send only one team comprising Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi for the men's doubles event at London Olympics. The Bhupathi-AITA rift came out in the open when the former accused Paes of 'backstabbing' besides expressing his desire to team up with Rohan Bopanna. The crisis deepened on Monday with Bopanna officially snubbing AITA's offer to pair with Paes.

In a statement written to AITA, Bopanna said he didn't want to combine with Paes even though it is his 'dream to represent India in Olympics'. 'With all respect and humility, I have been unable to accept AITA's offer and have communicated my decision to them in writing this morning,' Bopanna said in the statement.

Taking a fresh dig at AITA, Bhupathi said on Monday, 'We told AITA much earlier that this situation will arise and India will get two teams in the Olympics. We told them (AITA) that me and Bopanna were preparing to play as a pair for the Olympics. They (AITA) said in writing that we would be allowed to play as a pair if we qualify. That was given to us by the then president. If today they are denying this, they are doing to save themselves,' he said.

Meanwhile, the sports ministry too intervened in the matter after Bhupathi wrote to its head head Ajay Maken, saying that AITA's decision has 'surprised' and 'bemused'. The ministry shot off a six-point letter to AITA president Anil Khanna and sought explanation by Tuesday afternoon. The letter asked why AITA chose to select only one team when two teams can be sent to compete in next month's Olympics.


BOPANNA REFUSES TO TEAM UP WITH PAES

The crisis which has rocked the Indian tennis deepened today with Rohan Bopanna officially snubbing AITA’s offer to pair with Leander Paes for the men’s doubles event of the London Olympics.

After Bhupathi’s stubborn refusal to team up with Paes, Bopanna’s stand has put All India Tennis Association (AITA) in a fix after it made the controversial decision to nominate the long-feuding Lee-Hesh for the Games next month.

Bopanna wrote to AITA this morning, making it clear that he cannot combine with Paes although it is his ‘dream to represent India in Olympics’.

Bopanna said he was approached by the AITA with a request to pair with Paes as the AITA’s ‘second choice’ team.

‘With all respect and humility, I have been unable to accept AITA’s offer and have communicated my decision to them in writing this morning,’ Bopanna said in a statement.

Bopanna said the very basis of his forming a team with Bhupathi was to play in Olympics together and the tennis body not only knew about it, but encouraged them.

The big-serving player, who is in demand from both Bhupathi and Paes for the London Games, also said that he and Paes do not make a good pair and their partnership is unlikely to yield any result.

‘Since the beginning of the year, I have partnered with Mahesh Bhupathi towards playing together as at team at the Olympics. This was communicated to the AITA at every step and we were encouraged to continue to play together.


BHUPATHI BLAMES IATA FOR CRISIS

Mahesh Bhupathi today blamed the All India Tennis Federation for the selection row ahead of next month’s Olympics, saying that it has resulted due to AITA’s insistence on sending only one team to the London Games.

Bhupathi, who wrote a letter to the Sports Ministry to intervene in the matter, said that AITA knew all along that two teams could be sent to London, and the row would not have happened had the federation selected two teams.

‘We told them (AITA) much earlier that this situation will arise and India will get two teams in the Olympics. We told them (AITA) that me and Bopanna were preparing to play as a pair for the Olympics,’ Bhupathi said.

‘They (AITA) said in writing that we would be allowed to play as a pair if we qualify. That was given to us by the then president. If today they are denying this they were doing to save themselves,’ he said.

Bhupathi said that the issue can be resolved even now if AITA agrees to send two teams.

‘We were saying please send two teams and me and Bopanna want to pair up. Leander has been saying he wants to become the first Indian to play in six Olympics. He is going to go there no matter what. He can pick his partner being the world number seven. Me and Bopanna have also qualified on merit.

This is the way which will make everyone happy,’ he said. ‘If AITA does not want to do so then it would be to make one man happy,’ he said referring to Paes.

‘We have sought the help of the Sports Minister and hoping that we get a lifeline. It’s the most tragic incident in Indian sport,’ he said.

Bhupathi, however, conceded that he and Paes have made their relationship a ‘laughing stock’ and both have to be blamed for this.


MAKEN FAVOURS TWO TEAMS FOR OLYMPICS

Sports Minister Ajay Maken today stepped in to solve the crisis in Indian tennis, and suggested that the country should send two men's double teams in the upcoming Olympics.

Maken also hinted that he would favour the pairing of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna with Leander Paes teaming up with another player.

Maken said his ministry has written to the All India Tennis Federation to resolve the crisis by sending two teams in the London Olympics.

‘If we are entitled to sending two teams why sending only one? If Sania Mirza gets a wild card (either singles or women's doubles) who will pair with her in the mixed doubles. We have to take into account that Bhupathi and Sania had recently won the French Open mixed doubles title,’ Maken said.

‘We have to look into two things. One, as a layman I feel that if two players in a pair have developed a chemistry between them it would be advisable to have them in a team. Second, we have to see who Sania will pair up in the mixed doubles,’ he added.

Maken said his ministry as a matter of policy does not want to interfere in selection matters but he was forced to intervene for the nation.


SPORTS MINISTRY SEEKS ANSWER

As the tennis row escalated with Rohan Bopanna also refusing to pair with Leander Paes for the London olympics, the sports ministry sought an explanation from the AITA on the raging controversy concerning the selection of the men’s doubles pair. The ministry intervened after Mahesh Bhupathi wrote to sports minister Ajay Maken, saying that AITA’s decision has ‘surprised’ and ‘bemused’ him as he was paired with Paes despite his reluctance.

The ministry shot off a six point letter to the All india Tennis Association.
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