Sania and me have a better shot in Rio: Leander Paes

DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Jan 4, 2016, 7:55 am IST
Updated Mar 26, 2019, 12:21 pm IST
Leander, who is here for the Chennai Open, didn’t mince words while talking about the selection issues.
Leander Paes
 Leander Paes

Chennai: It’s the Olympic year and yet another bomb is ticking in Indian tennis. Alluding to India’s failure in winning a tennis medal at the London Games in 2012 as a result of a “farcical selection”, tennis star Leander Paes doesn’t want to see another “political interference” when the All India Tennis Association picks up team for the Rio Olympics.

The 17-time grand slam champion made it clear that he wants to partner Sania Mirza as he feels India have a realistic chance of winning a medal in the mixed doubles. Leander, who is here for the Chennai Open, didn’t mince words while talking about the selection issues. 

 

Excerpts:

On partnering an Indian in the run-up to the Rio Olympics:

After playing with Marcel Granollers (Spain) in Chennai and Jeremy Chardy (France) at the Australian Open: I asked Rohan Bopanna whether he would like to play a few tournaments before the Games, but he feels pretty set in his current partnership (with Frenchman Florin Mergea). He wasn’t so keen. 

I do feel it’s important to play a few tournaments together like I was trying to do in 2012. But unfortunately it had panned out to be a shambles four year ago. And I hope that doesn’t happen again. 

 

By March-April is when the nominations for the Rio Games go in and I believe the selection should be done on merit. After winning three mixed doubles grand slams in 2015, leading into the Olympic year, I certainly hope that I am India’s frontrunner, especially in mixed doubles. I should get a call. I want to play with Sania and that’s the best team. In men’s, the best team is Rohan and myself.

On playing with Sania to prepare for the Games:
I spoke to her a few times. But, in the mixed doubles, Martina Hingis and I continue to win grand slams and we don’t want to break that streak. 

 

On indications that Sania and Bopanna are keen to join hands:
The indications are always there. But at the end of the day, all of us in the fraternity saw what happened in London very clearly. At that point I was no. 2 in the world. As a top 10 player, according to the ITF rules, the right to pick and choose the partner was with me.

At that time, I felt politics came in and played its part, in a dirty manner. I know the people who were behind it and I am not going to name them. The fact that neither Sania nor Rohan got into mixed doubles slam final in 2015. And Rohan has never been in mixed doubles final in his entire career. That goes to show that I can complement Sania well. 

 

On Sania’s right to pick her partner:
Sania is No.1 in the women’s doubles. Let us be specific on this, she is not no.1 in the mixed. If there was ranking for mixed, Hingis would be No.1 for winning 3 slams with me. 

On AITA handling the issue:
I have already had a couple of conversations with the officials and made it very clear that Sania and I have a real chance of winning a medal at the Rio Olympics.

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