With the situation that India can only field one team for the men’s doubles competition in Rio Olympics, legendary Leander Paes’ hopes of participating in record seventh Olympics is under serious doubt.
By dint of higher rankings in the doubles section, Rohan Bopanna is sure to compete in the doubles. But the pity is whether Bopanna would agree to partner Paes in Rio. It bewilders me that the winner of 18 Grand Slam titles will have to wait for the nod of someone who has never won a Grand Slam. Bizarre… Isn’t it? But that’s the reality.
Also, the fact that a medal from doubles in the mega event is a far cry as of now, but it can be said with certainty that a player of Paes’ calibre at the highest level has more chances rather than a Bopanna, who has hardly won any worthwhile title in his fairly long career.
However, technicalities has that Bopanna’s entry to top 10 among the doubles pairs in the ATP chart has given him the opportunity for a direct entry to Rio whereas Paes is placed at 46th. The fact that Bopanna’s chances of getting into the top 10 hinged on the Marcelo Melo and Ivan Dodig pair is something that compels one to rack his/her brains.
Melo-Dodig was required to not cross the semi-final hurdle of the just concluded French Open so as to ensure Bopanna’s smooth passage into the top 10. Melo-Dodig’s loss in the semi-finals to eventual Roland Garros mixed doubles champions Feliciano and Marc Lopez sealed a berth for Bopanna in the top 10 of the ATP chart.
Now, if records and big-stage performances are anything to go by, Paes is any day a better bet than Bopanna. But going by the regulation, Paes will have to wait for Bopanna’s nod to have shy at his record seventh Olympic participation is itself a big humiliation for the legend that Lee is.
Having said that, rules are rules, for which we will also miss double Olympic medal winner Sushil Kumar is wrestling, which is already a big blow to India’s medal prospect. Though Nar Singh Yadav, who will represent India in Rio, has a better better score and form than the iconic Sushil.
However, it may be recalled that Bopanna refused to partner Paes and instead chose another stalwart Mahesh Bhupathi in London Olympics and Leander was left to pair up with unheralded Vishnu Vardhan in 2012. The results of both pairs were on the expected lines as neither of the pairs could go anywhere near the medal bracket.
Now, the situation has also put Bopanna in a spot of bother as he will have to take call on whether to partner Paes as AITA has already steered clear of the controversy and refused to intervene in the matter. If Bopanna chooses to pair up with India’s fifth best Saketh Myneni (125), then it will be game over for Paes as AITA also Paes won’t be allowed to partner Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles without having entry in any other category. In case Bopanna picks Myneni, the entire pressure to perform and win a medal will be on the Bangalorean.
Now, tennis lovers can only hope that Bopanna agrees (which is likely) to partner Paes, otherwise Rio won’t be the same for India as it was last six times since Atlanta in 1996. Hope floats!