Rohan Bopanna and I remain India’s best bet at 2016 Rio Olympics, says Leander Paes
New Delhi, June 8: His participation at the Rio Olympics still shrouded in suspense, veteran Indian tennis star Leander Paes does not want another acrimonious build up to the Games, hoping that India will send its “best” team to the quadrennial extravaganza. With Rohan Bopanna still not stating his choice of partner, all of it now boils down to AITA’s selection Committee meeting on 11 June.
“We definitely don’t want a repeat of London,” Paes said when asked numerous times about his participation in the Olympics.
Paes was denied his choice of partner for the 2012 London Games and was forced to play with rookie Vishnu Vardhan since Bopanna preferred to partner Mahesh Bhupathi in men’s doubles.
A lot of bad blood was created and India returned without any medal. India have won only one Olympic medal in the tennis discipline and it was Paes, who a bronze in the men’s singles at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
“I have full confidence in AITA and selection committee and I am sure they will do the right thing. They will speak to right individuals and make sure India sends its best choice (team) for a medal,” Paes said.
Paes categorically said that his pairing with Bopanna was the best option available for India.
“We are playing at a very high level. My career speaks for itself and Rohan has also been doing well in last 18 months. We both are ready and without a shadow of doubt, me and Rohan are the best team,” he said.
However he chose not to speak when asked why there was mistrust among the top Indian players — him, Sania Mirza and Bopanna.
“My silence says it all,” he replied with a smile.
The 42-year-old, who keeps rewriting the record books, said he himself was surprised that records keep tumbling in his glittering career.
Paes won his 18th Grand Slam title at French Open which also brought him level to mixed doubles titles record of 10 with his “favourite” and legendary Martina Navratilova.
“I dedicate it to my father, Dr Vece Paes, who has been my backbone in my career. He has been my biggest critic and I would not have been here without him,” he said and also eulogised his trainer and travel companion Sanjay Singh for handling him well in difficult situations.
Paes also recalled his meeting with boxing great Mohammed Ali at the Atlanta Games.
“When I was 5, I used to dress up like Mohammed Ali and had a few of his catch phrases that suited me. He was one of the greatest human beings. He did not believe in a world where people killed each other.
“After I had won bronze at the Atlanta, Ali told me that it is your job to inspire every young child in your country, it’s your job to motivate them. He was right. It is my job to motivate that they can also be champions,” he said.