The All India Tennis Association (AITA) on Wednesday rejected Sania Mirza’s allegation that she had been used as “bait” to placate doubles specialist Leander Paes and insisted the team for London Olympics had been selected “purely on merit”.
“Leander Paes and Sania Mirza together can produce great results for India,” said Ranveer Chauhan, AITA executive director, in New Delhi. “The team for Olympics has been chosen by a professional selection committee. Selection was purely on merit. AITA respects all its player and it’s fully aware of Sania Mirza’s accomplishment.”
Mirza on Tuesday issued a statement alleged she had been humiliated by the “manner in which I was put up as a bait to try and pacify one of the disgruntled stalwarts of Indian tennis.”
“The whole episode reeked of “male chauvinism”, she said, alleging she had been “offered as compensation to partner one of the feuding champions to lure him into accepting to play with a men’s player he does not wish to play with.” She was referring to Paes.
The AITA was forced backtrack and field two men’s doubles teams for the London Games after both Mahesh Bhupathi and regular partner Rohan Bopanna refused to play with the country’s top-ranked doubles player Paes.
Last Thursday, AITA defused the row by announcing that Paes would partner Vishnu Vardhan while the Bhupathi-Bopanna partnership would remain intact for the Olympics. The federation also said Paes would partner Mirza in the mixed doubles, something perceived as a compromise for the men’s doubles world number seven after AITA’s plan to send the strongest men’s team on paper came undone.