Rio Olympics 2016: When Leander Paes’ attitude lets the country down, it’s a serious matter….writes Bikram Vohra
This is not sport, this is pure politics. You don’t practice together. You don’t speak to each other. You arrive from New York one day before the match and you don’t get practice time, Leander, so Rohan Bopanna has to use that time to practice with another Serbian player which is of absolutely no use, since the Serbian is not his partner.
‘Lesser’ players then our busy busy old man, like Novak Djokivitch and Andy Murray, arrive a week earlier to get used to the conditions. They are playing for their country and they take it seriously.
We, on the other hand, are more excited that it is Leander Paes’ seventh appearance as an Olympian. So what if they lose the first round to relatively unknown players – Poland’s Lukaz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski – who didn’t take very long to thrash our guys 6-4, 7-6.
Oh, but at least we have the world record for most tennis Olympic appearances. Guess that’s why we’re not so disappointed that our boys did not make it through Round one.
We should be wildly angry and we are not because that’s the way we are. We accept the ridiculous. No one minds losing if the effort is 100 percent. This pair was an odd couple from day one. Both of them had told the tennis authorities just that. But an 18 time Grand Slam title winner (Paes) and the number ten ranked doubles players (Bopanna) were so mired in controversy from the very beginning that it looked like they didn’t even want to win.
Straight sets. Tell you what though. In 2020, in Tokyo, we can send Leander for his eighth Olympics and that record will stand for decades. He can prance about the court, hit a few balls, get a room to himself and have a blast. Then we can dispatch him again in 2024, just to clinch matters.
After which some wiseguy will say that let’s make him the only man to have made Olympic appearances in double digits, wow!
Thing is, when you play Grand Slams you play more for your personal glory, but when you play the Davis Cup or the Olympics, you play for your flag and your country.
Ask AITA chief Anil Khanna what the heck was Leander doing playing in New York two days before the Olympics.
Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA), Gael Monfils, David Ferrer, Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber Garbine Muguruza, Agnieszka Radwanska, Venus Williams, they are all there, integral to their contingents.
They are not playing tournaments in other countries.
We made a big mistake in not listening to Bopanna, and he has a right to say I told you so. When he said he wanted to play with 125th seeded Saketh Myneni we should have ridden above sentiment and salutation for past glories and gone with his request.
But then making Leander a record breaker was far more important than the game.
“Committee decided that the best bet for Indian tennis to win a medal at the Olympics would be Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna,” AITA chief Anil Khanna told reporters, after the decision was made and Myneni was sidelined.
Talk about prophetic decisions. If this sleepy, jet lagged ‘well I am here, where’s my room, okay let’s get it over with’ individual was our best bet, then we shouldn’t have sent any tennis players.
Proud as we are of Leander’s career victories, this was a no go…you talk a lot about the honour of playing for your country but you didn’t back your talk, Sir, not this time you didn’t.