The All India Tennis Association's selection committee is gearing up for a stormy meeting in Bangalore on Friday to decide on the men's doubles combination for the London Olympics amidst reports that Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi are keen to play as a team instead of pairing with any other player.
Leander Paes (7th) is India's highest ranked player, but Bhupathi (14) and Bopanna's (12) combined ranking of 26 can easily take them to the draw and can even make them a seeded pair.
If the AITA listens to what Bhupathi and Bopanna have expressed through e-mails, it will leave Paes without a partner or playing with someone from the next generation of players like Somdev Devvraman, who hasn't played tennis for more than six months due to a shoulder injury.
A selection committee member questioned the stand being adopted by Bhupathi and Bopanna.
"How can they dictate what the team should be? What about the Sports Ministry's fund given to the players for training. They have also been a beneficiary of that. Representatives of the ministry, IOA are also part of the selection committee. So, the committee will decide what the combination should be and not the players," he said.
"It is their last Olympics and going into it with all this confrontation, is not a healthy sign at all," the member added.
Bhupathi and Bopanna had paired as a team at the start of the year and the latter even ended his very successful pairing with Pakistan's Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi.
The duo, in their communication with the AITA, reportedly said that they came together as a team to prepare for the Olympics.
According to sources, the AITA is keen to field Paes with Bhupathi or Bopanna. In that case, either Bopanna or Bhupathi will miss out on the event.
It is because no other Indian player has a ranking with which either Bopanna or Bhupathi can make a pair with their combined rankings.
Players confrontation is not new to the AITA, but the fact that it is faced with the task of selecting a team for the Olympics and not any Davis Cup rubber is what makes it even more crucial.
How the AITA handles this crisis remains to be seen.