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Friday, June 22, 2012

The Biggest Indian Tennis Fight: Blackmail, Compromises And Suspense!


We have always heard about the Indian cricketing superstars dictating terms to their controlling Board on when they need rest or which format of the game they need to play and so on. But what the Indian tennis players have been doing to their selectors would make the cricket superstars look like silly brats! Both sets of players show a common characteristic though—self interest first and the pride of the nation later.
Leander Paes, the best international doubles tennis player for India, wanted the next best Indian to pair him so that the chances of getting an Olympic medal in London got maximized. The All India Tennis Association (AITA) toed his line from the very outset. But a crisis situation developed when the next best players—Mahesh Bhupathi—refused to play with Leander. The IATA then hooked up Rohan Bopanna, the next best seeded player, for pairing with Leander. But Bopanna also refused and agreed to play only with Bhupathi. The Indian Sports Ministry tried to intervene by suggesting a double-team option and by appealing to the players again to consider pride of the nation first. The final decision on the matter was left to the IATA.
Meanwhile Leander Paes kept on saying that he would never pair with a lower seeded player as that could nip Olympic medal hopes in the bud. He was even hinting at withdrawing from the Games if his wishes were not fulfilled.
With just hours before the deadline of making the tennis Olympic entries the IATA finally declared two men’s doubles tennis teams for the London Olympics-2012. Vishnu Vardhan, seeded 206 internationally, was selected to pair Leander. Bhupathi was allowed to be the second team with Bopanna. A decision that must have pained Paes and elated Bhupathi and Bopanna. 
To placate Paes the IATA offered a concession that Sania Mirza, the lady tennis star of India, would pair only with Paes for the mixed doubles if, of course, she managed to get the wild card to participate in the Olympics. The IATA also declared that disciplinary action against the bullying players was not thought about at the moment since the Olympics was a huge occasion when all concerned ought to concentrate on making their country proud. One factor that also came in favor of IATA’s compromises or rather helplessness was the fact that unwilling players could not possibly be forced to show results or win medals for India.
But the biggest fight was far from over. The offended Paes had stopped communicating to IATA and his father became his spokesperson indicating the likely withdrawal of Paes from the Olympics. Paes was also reported of demanding a written assurance from IATA that only he would play with Sania in the mixed doubles. No doubt, he has been the greatest tennis player of India, but the greatest showing of power and clout is just not making his fans happy. As the fight starts to degenerate into a blackmail drama the suspense keeps everyone guessing.
An aghast nation waits disbelievingly for the sordid drama to end and the Indian Olympic campaign begin in the right earnest. All players who come in the way must be quickly and effectively brought to book, the cries seem to get louder and clearer.
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