In recent times, doubles players have hogged the limelight in Indian tennis – for reasons good and bad. While the exploits of Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna in Grand Slam doubles competitions have made us proud, the acrimony between them has left everyone exasperated.
The latest episode in the soap opera was enacted in Pune on Wednesday when it became clear that Saketh Myneni, who was to play two singles and a doubles, would not be able to take court for the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie against New Zealand starting on Friday. The team management finally called up Vishnu Vardhan who fitted the plan and was ready to make a dash to Pune.
The India tennis team ahead of their Davis Cup match against New Zealand. (HT Photo)
With Myneni’s injured leg not improving, one group in the team management and All India Tennis Association (AITA) rushed to arrange for a replacement while another wanted Myneni to play the doubles.
But considering the risk involved, a proposal was mooted to have Yuki Bhambri play on all three days. He was ready but that idea was ditched as the former Junior Australian Open champion has only recently come back from a long injury layoff.
In between, a call was made to Rohan Bopanna, the highest ranked Indian player in ATP doubles list who was surprisingly dumped by the selectors for this tie. Bopanna had a public spat with Leander Paes, who is one short of a Davis Cup doubles record, after the Rio Olympics.
Bopanna, who went hammer and tongs at AITA for dumping him, refused to join the team.
“I don’t know what reason he gave. Three people spoke to him but I was not one of them,” said Anand Amritraj. It was surprising because as captain, he should have taken the lead.
(L to R) Anand Amritraj, Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan ahead of the Davis Cup tie. (HT Photo)
Paes said he was ready to talk to Bopanna but was asked not to. “I was happy to make the first call to Rohan but I was told not to.”
With some other players too unavailable, the 43-year-old Paes called up Vishnu Vardhan. “Leander called me asking how I was feeling, how was my game. I was actually scheduled to play in Kazakhstan but did not get visa,” Vishnu said. “I have always considered Davis Cup highly as it is the only chance to play for your country. If the call had come even if I had got the visa, I would have said yes.”
While the team management termed it an example of patriotism, it is clear that all is not hunky dory in Indian tennis and things will continue to remain so till the trio of team management, AITA and selectors continue to give preference to individuals instead of best team combination.