| NEW DELHI, June 21
NEW DELHI, June 21 Mahesh Bhupathi and regular
partner Rohan Bopanna will play together at the London Olympics
after India's tennis association backtracked on a controversial
decision to split up the pair.
India would field two men's doubles teams in London, the All
India Tennis Association (AITA) said on Thursday after a player
revolt over the original decision to name Bhupathi and former
partner Leander Paes, who no longer speak to each other, as the
"In the given circumstances, the best option before the AITA
is of sending two pairs," federation president Anil Khanna told
Bhupathi, not on speaking terms with Paes after their second
bitter split last year, had threatened to boycott the Games if
he and Bopanna were separated.
Bopanna, too, rejected an AITA offer to partner Paes, whose
top-10 ranking gives him direct entry, and said India should
field two pairs.
Paes, who won three grand-slam titles with Bhupathi in the
late 1990s, will now partner Vishnu Vardhan, ranked outside the
top 200 in doubles.
"The AITA agrees that this decision is unfair to Paes...but
in the given circumstances, which is not 100 percent tennis
circumstance, this is the best option," said Khanna, who also
heads the Asian Tennis Federation.
In mixed doubles, Paes will team up with Sania Mirza.
Khanna was optimistic of Paes accepting the compromise.
"Leander is undoubtedly the most patriotic player...AITA
holds him in very high esteem and appeals to him to accept this
Bhupathi and Bopanna said in a joint statement that they
were delighted with the decision.
"The events of the last few days have been extremely
challenging," they added. "In making each of our decisions, we
were guided by our strong convictions regarding what we believed
was fair and we are pleased that this is reflected in the
"We are excited that we will be playing together at the
Olympics and our sole focus is now on our team's preparations
for the Games."
Khanna, however, warned that the matter was not closed and
said the AITA would consider action against Bhupathi and Bopanna
after the July 27-Aug. 12 Olympics.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)