In an interview following India’s 5-0 whitewash at the Davis Cup, Indian doubles legend Leander Paes said the country “did not send the best possible team to Rio”, reiterating that he had won two Grand Slams just prior to the Olympic Games (both of those mixed doubles titles with Swiss ace Martina Hingis), and so “….(I) was not the problem,”a statement which clearly addresssed his pairing with Bopanna. The 18-time Grand Slam winner had, at the time, asked the All-India Tennis Association or AITA to intervene, and as a result was paired with Bopanna for Rio.
This could have also addressed the fact that Mirza was paired with Bopanna in the mixed doubles rather than Paes, with whom the Grand Slam winning top-ranked doubles player does not share a comfortable rapport.
Vece Paes, the father of 43-year-old Leander, famously wrote a letter to the AITA prior to the London 2012 Olympics, requesting that Mirza be paired with Paes in the mixed doubles, against then 25-year-old Mirza’s wishes.
Bopanna, as the higher-ranked player in the doubles, had, as a result of his then-top 10 ranking, been given a free entry to the Olympic Games, and with it the freedom to choose his partner.
The 36-year-old ace picked India’s top-ranked singles player, Saketh Myneni, as his partner, a decision that was overruled by AITA or the All-India Tennis Association, in favour of Paes.
Now, both Bopanna and World No. 1 doubles player Sania Mirza have hit out at Paes on Twitter.
Mirza was the first to respond:
After retweeting Mirza’s statement, Bopanna fired back with one of his own:
Although neither player explicitly mentions Paes, their statements come in the immediate aftermath of Paes' statements.
Paes and Bopanna lost in the first round of the men’s doubles at the Olympics to the Polish pair of Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, while Bopanna and Mirza progressed through until the bronze medal stage of the shorter mixed doubles discipline, losing to the Czech pair of Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka.
With neither Bopanna nor Mirza having shared a warm relationship with Paes, it remains to be seen how this will play out for future tournaments.