Mumbai: Amidst the Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna controversy, India’s former Davis Cup captain and one of the top players the country has produced, Jaidip Mukerjea, doesn’t think that what has been done to pacify all will help India as a team in the Rio Olympics starting in August.
Having said that, the former captain also felt that Paes-Bopanna is the best bet for India as far as he is concerned, but there’s a rider to it. “Undoubtedly, this is the best combination I can think of. But while playing doubles, both need to gel well and must be good friends off court too, which they are not in any case… So it will tough for them to concentrate and bring out the best in them,” Mukerjea told SportsCrunch from Kolkata.
Mukerjea, who was in thick of things in Indian tennis in 1960s, has seen Paes grow in stature in front of him at the Calcutta South Club courts and hails the 18 Grand Slam winner as one of the best India have produced, but didn’t want to give too much importance to mixed doubles rankings. “Without belittling Leander, I must say that mixed doubles are played only in Majors and they are only four in a year,” he said.
Whether Paes would have done the same thing what Boppana did was also a question that the Davis Cupper raised during the discussion. “Had Leander been in Bopanna’s shoes what would he have done?…Also since there’s this ITF practice of the top ranked player choosing his partner which I don’t think is wrong, but that was not honoured in this case,” 74-year-old Mukerjea said.
However, the situation is the similar to four years ago in the London Olympics. Same controversy rocked the tennis fraternity when Mahesh Bhupathi paired up Rohan Bopanna while Paes was left to partner rookie Vishnu Vardhan after both Bhupathi and Bopanna refused to pair up with the legendary Paes. “The scenario is not good for Indian tennis as in every Olympics this is happening…In London also, Sania (Mirza) was forced to play with Leander and the results were not very exciting,” Mukerjea said.
It may be recalled that both Paes and Mukerjea have great records in the Davis Cup with the 43-year-old surpassing the former captain in terms of Davis Cup wins. Leander now has a 48 singles victory as compared to Mukerjea’s 39 in the Davis Cup. In total, Paes has 89 wins to his credit while the Mukerjea has 62 under his belt.