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Paes ready to play with Bhupathi at London Olympics

Last updated on: June 16, 2012 19:45 IST

Despite Mahesh Bhupathi lashing out at him in public over the selection of the men's doubles team for the London Olympics, Leander Paes refused to react and said he is ready to play with his former partner at the mega-event, starting next month.

-AITA refuses to change stance, says will send Lee-Hesh to Olympics

Paes on Saturday said he had expressed his preference to play with Rohan Bopanna at the London Games when asked by the AITA, but despite that he is ready to play with Bhupathi and has no complaints with the selection.

- Bhupathi lashes out at Paes, AITA after Olympics selection

The AITA on Friday selected Paes and Bhupathi for the men's doubles event at the London Games, rejecting the latter's insistence on being paired with Rohan Bopanna in the mega-event next month.

A furious Bhupathi then called Paes a "back-stabber", referring to latter's decision to split during the end of last season.

Leander Paes (left) with Mahesh Bhupathi"He (Paes) publicly and privately stabbed me in the back in November, last year, and things can't be turned around. We don't speak and have no camaraderie," he told a television channel on Friday.

But Paes refused to comment on Bhupathi's statements. "I have no reaction to the recent statements made by Mahesh Bhupati to the media," he said in a media release.

Paes, who won the bronze medal in the men's singles tennis event at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, said he has no problems playing with Bhupathi at the Olympics next month. But the veteran also clarified that he had asked for Rohan Bopanna as his partner when asked for his views by the AITA.

"I have always maintained that I will play with whoever the selection committee and AITA choose and this continues to be my stand. It is a well known fact that when asked by the AITA, I have expressed my preference to play with Rohan Bopanna as my partner in the Olympics 2012, based on his physical fitness and big serve," he said.

As the highest ranking Indian player in the men's doubles, Leander had the option of selecting a team member who would best complement his chance of winning a medal for the country at the 2012 Olympics. But he has no complaints and preferred to stick with AITA's choice.

He further added that his only focus at the moment is to represent the country at the Olympics and is putting all his efforts towards winning a medal at the Games next month.

"Winning a medal at the Atlanta Olympics is the most cherished memory I have in my tennis career. To play for our flag, and represent India for the 6th time at the Olympics, is my greatest honour. I will, as I always have in the past, put my best foot forward," he said.

The AITA also stuck to it's stance on Saturday, saying that Bhupathi will partner Paes at the Olympics and they will not consider any changes.

Speaking to reporters after being elected unopposed as AITA President, Anil Khanna made a strong defence of the selection committee's decision on picking the duo.

Urging Bhupathi to be a "little more mature", Khanna asked him to put the national interest first." Both (Bhupathi and Bopanna) have to realise that the nation comes much before commitment to each other," he said.

Khanna said if Bhupathi expects AITA to buckle under pressure and not pair him with Paes, "it will not happen".

Bhupathi had also slammed the AITA on Friday calling the selection of the doubles team as the "worst possible in the interest of the country".

He was also furious that the AITA chose not to send two teams for the mega event, saying the decision has something "more to it than meets the eye".

"The ship that I and Leander boarded has sailed long time ago. We have split four times, gone to the Olympics four times and returned empty-handed. For us going back to the Olympics (together) is worst possible in the interest of country," Bhupathi said.

Harish Kotian