India's leading tennis player Leander Paes slammed the warring duo of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna for refusing to pair with him at the London Olympics and said he will withdraw from the Games if the All India Tennis Association decides to send two teams.
The Indian men's doubles team for the Olympics will be named only on Thursday, as the AITA failed to arrive at a consensus on selection despite hectic parleys with the three feuding players.
Paes refused to team up with any player other than Bhupathi or Bopanna, and said he has no choice but withdraw from the Games if the AITA sends two teams.
"Coming back to the men's doubles, I am comfortable to partner Mahesh or Rohan for the forthcoming Olympics. If Mahesh or Rohan refuse to play with me for our country, then I am happy to play with the next best player that the AITA decides on.
"However, it would not be acceptable, if with my ranking as the best Indian tennis player, I give up the best option of partner for winning a medal for my country and am made to play the Olympics with a player ranked 207/306 in the world while the No 13 and No 15-ranked players form another team together based on their refusal to play with me.
"If this is the case then, for the sake of Indian tennis and to relieve the AITA in regards to the selection of the team, I have no other option but withdraw from the Olympics," he wrote, in a letter addressed to Bharat Oza, secretary-general of the AITA, on Wednesday.
Paes, who won a bronze medal in the men's singles at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, also minced no words against Bhupathi and Bopanna, saying they are setting a bad precedent.
"This decision is not taken lightly and with any rancor. We cannot be condoning or rewarding the drama enacted by Mahesh and Rohan. This would be a bad precedent for current and future sportspersons (particularly tennis players) in our country," he added.
Paes said he secured qualification for the London Olympics by virtue of his consistent showing in the first six months of 2012 and, therefore, should be eligible to choose his partner.
"I have been ATP ranked at No. 1 in the world as a team and No. 7 in the world individually, for the first 6 months of 2012. By virtue of this I have got a direct entry into the men's doubles at the Olympics with the right to choose my partner," he said.
The veteran player also pointed out that Sania Mirza does not need a wild card as together they have a combined ranking of 19 which ensures them a direct entry for the mixed doubles.
"I would also bring to your notice that Sania and I, by virtue of our combined ranking of No. 19 on the ATP Tour, have got a direct entry in the mixed doubles at the Olympics," he wrote.
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- Maken favours two teams, hints at Hesh-Bopanna pairing
- Bopanna tells AITA he won't partner Paes at Olympics
- Paes ready to play with Bhupathi at London Olympics
- Bhupathi lashes out at Paes, AITA after Olympics selection