'Let us move forward and focus on winning a medal'
Sania Mirza on Monday said that the bitter London Olympics tennis selection row created bad blood among the players and also strained her relationship with Mahesh Bhupathi but she has left it behind to focus on winning a medal in mixed doubles with Leander Paes.
Paes was forced to pair with lower-ranked Vishnu Vardhan in the men's doubles after both Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna refused to play with him. He was paired with Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles event as a compromise.
"The controversy did not do anything good to anybody. It created bad blood among us and that is very unfortunate. I am happy that it is over and I can now concentrate on doing well in the Olympics with Leander and win a medal," Sania said.
"Let us move forward and focus on winning a medal. Leander reached the final at the Wimbledon and that is the positive thing. I and Mahesh lost and that was unfortunate. We should have been playing in the final," she said.
- Enraged Paes threatens to pull out of London Olympics
- Bhupathi, Bopanna breaking agreement with AITA: Paes
- AITA's decision defies logic: Bhupathi to Maken
- 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
Image: Sania Mirza
Photographs: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Sania said that she had preferred to play with Bhupathi
Sania said that the selection row also strained her relationships with Mahesh Bhupathi.
"It was difficult to block the controversy from my mind and it was disturbing me. The situation did not arise because of what I said. Mahesh and I have been very good friends but the controversy did strain our friendship," she said.
Sania said that she had preferred to play with Bhupathi in the mixed doubles but with Paes also, they can have a good shot at a medal.
"I am a forehand player and Mahesh a backhand player, so I had preferences. But I have never said to play or not with any player. I am ready to play with anybody for my country.
"Leander is a very good player and long time friend. I have played with him also for long. It's an honour to be playing with him in Olympics. I am in good form, won French Open (with Bhupathi). He (Paes) reached the final of Wimbledon and so he is also in great form. We can have a very good shot for a medal," she told a television channel.
Image: Sania Mirza with Mahesh Bhupathi
Photographs: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
'Only an Olympic medal is left to be won'
Sania has won medals in the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the Afro-Asian Games, and she said she now wants an Olympic medal in her cupboard.
"I have 12 medals, including those in Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Afro-Asian Games. Only an Olympic medal is left to be won. So this time I hope me and Leander get one," said Sania.
Asked when she is going to practice with Paes before the Olympics, Sania said, "I have not heard from or met Leander. He was in the Wimbledon final but could not meet him. Captain S P Mishra contacted everybody saying that he wants everybody to be in London by July 23 and so I will be there by then.
"I will be going to the United States and play in San Diego. From there I will be in London and after July 23 I think I can start practice with Leander."
Sania disagreed with the perception that winning a medal in the mixed doubles will be comparatively easier as it would be a 16-team draw.
"I think it is wrong that mixed doubles competition will be easy. People say if you win two matches then you are in the semi-final and a shot in the medal. But the draw is very tough, the best pairs in the world are in the draw and it won't be easy to win the matches," she said.
Image: Sania Mirza with Leander Paes
Photographs: Julian Finney/Getty Images for DAGOC