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Rio Olympics 2016: AITA steps in, Leander checks in

Leander Paes will be going to Rio de Janeiro to play in his 7th Olympics.

Leander Paes Rohan Bopanna
Rohan Bopanna (L) and Leander Paes will represent India in men’s doubles event at Rio.

The All India Tennis Association (AITA) has announced that star player Leander Paes will be partnering Rohan Bopanna at the 2016 Rio Olympics. AITA held a press conference on June 11th in New Delhi to make the announcement and confirmed that Paes and Bopanna will represent India in the men’s doubles event. A lot of controversy had been going on with Rohan Bopanna preferring Saketh Myneni as his partner.

While Paes is going to team up with Bopanna in the men’s doubles category, Sania Mirza will be partnered by Prarthana Thombare in women’s doubles. Furthermore, Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza are going to compete in the mixed doubles event at the upcoming games in Rio de Janeiro. Things have not been all rosy with Indian tennis and constant questions have been raised about a sense of mistrust between star players.

Leander Paes, 18-time Grand Slam Champion, has often been dealt a rough hand and it has taken a decision by the authorities to enable him to participate in his seventh Olympics. Anil Khanna, President of All India Tennis Association, said that the selection has been done keeping in mind India’s best medal hopes. “We have made all choices based on merit and in accordance with India’s best chances of getting a medal.”

When Sportskeeda asked him about Leander Paes being dealt a rough hand by his colleagues, Mr. Khanna said, “I think what matters in the end is whether Leander is going to represent India at the Olympics or not. The answer is that he will be going and I think that is the best for everyone.

“These players are not kids and they are international professionals. They know how to deal with things and I am sure they will try to do what is best for their country and get India a medal at the Rio Olympics,” he added.

Indian fans will be hoping that there is not a repeat of the 2012 London Olympics when Leander and Sania were chosen to play together in the mixed doubles category but could not advance beyond the quarterfinals despite being exceptional international players. The fact that a legend like Leander Paes needs an AITA decision to overturn his compatriots’ decision of not playing with him raises big questions about Indian tennis.

Though it would not enough, Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna will get a chance to play with each other before the Olympics in the Davis Cup tie against South Korea in Chandigarh from 15th to 17th July. Fans will be hoping that the two bury whatever hatchet there is and play to the best of their abilities at the Rio Olympics. Given how strong India’s contingent is in the doubles category with Leander, Sania and Rohan, a medal should be coming easily.

However, no amount of individual brilliance can forge a team to win a competition until and unless there is a real sense of trust and chemistry between the players. Here’s hoping things will not be the same for Indian tennis as the 2012 London Olympics.

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