Vijay Amritraj slams Leander Paes for ‘unnecessarily prolonging his career’
While the entire country is still coming to terms with Indian tennis ace Rohan Bopanna’s decision to pick Saketh Myneni over the 18-time Major winner Leander Paes as his men’s doubles partner for the upcoming Olympics, there is someone – a very famous Indian tennis personality – who thinks the 42-year-old is ‘unnecessarily prolonging his career’. In an interview to NewsX, Vijay Amritraj, once ranked as high as No. 16 in singles, took the opportunity to air views very different from the rest of the nation.
Paes is aiming for a record seventh appearance at the mega quadrennial Games in August after winning his 10th Grand Slam mixed doubles crown recently at the French Open alongside Martina Hingis. It also enabled him to complete the much-coveted Career Slam in the discipline. Just a week away from his 43rd birthday, India’s evergreen tennis icon looks as hungry and motivated as ever.
Yet Amritraj simply swatted away the weight of Paes’ achievement or his stupendous efforts and said that doubles tennis is simply of no value or of any interest these days. He even admitted that he is unaware which events Paes is playing in nowadays.
“I don’t know what events he (Leander) is participating in. Doubles are of no value, no interest. It occupies not even a column in international tennis,” the 62-year-old said.
“It’s sad to see him and other Indians only compete in doubles. Doubles tennis is neither watched nor followed much globally. Neither it generates interests nor it’s challenging or of high quality,” Amritraj felt.
In a separate interview to Times Now, the current sports commentator fully backed Bopanna’s pick of Myneni and attributed it to the World No. 10’s comfort level with the Asian Games gold medallist.
“Rohan decided to play with Saketh, I suppose, because of his comfort level. Saketh has a great, big serve. He’s been playing well in Challengers and doing extremely well in singles and I think that’s really what matters,” Amritraj believes.
Paes still has a glimmer of hope, though. The final team combination will be made by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) as the International Tennis Federation (ITF) rules state that only a national association can make the nomination. Indian tennis fans are thus still hopeful that the national body will not deprive the Kolkata-born icon a chance to engrave his name in record books.
But Amritraj dismissed the fact that Paes’ personal milestone will have any bearing on AITA’s final decision.
Such disparaging comments from a fellow Indian sportsperson can be extremely disheartening for Leander, who has served the country with utmost respect and commitment every time. Even after nearly 30 years of professional career, Paes doesn’t even look close to being worn out, rather he is still the same old sprightly and energetic player on the court who is not ashamed of showing his enthusiasm after hitting a mind-boggling shot.
Instead of judging whether he is denying a place to youngsters by extending his career, his admirable fitness at this age is what should be admired and made an example of. Paes surely deserves much better than this.
Let us hope the AITA considers all aspects when the selection committee meets on 11th June for choosing the final teams that will be sent to the Olympics.