Leander Paes pulls out of Asian Games; AITA hits back


Miffed at not getting a "specialist" men's doubles partner, Leander Paes has pulled out of the Asian Games.

The 45-year-old was asked to team up with Sumit Nagal after the All India Tennis Association (AITA) agreed to pair Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan, the country's top doubles players, on their request.

"It is with a heavy heart that I have to say that I will not be playing the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia," Paes said in a statement sent to PTI. "Despite my repeated requests, from so many weeks in advance, it is sad that we have not been able to put a doubles specialist in the team for a credible second doubles pairing for the Asian Games."

AITA, for its part, said Paes did not inform them about his decision. "Our job is to select players, and if someone chooses not to participate the least he can do is inform us," said AITA secretary general Hiranmoy Chatterjee. "Now it's too late for us to field a replacement since accreditations are closed. We have no option but to work with the team we have. Of course we will miss Leander's experience in such a major event, but by making this a last-minute affair he has actually robbed a deserving player of an opportunity."

With Sharan and Bopanna deciding to play together, captain Zeeshan Ali had to pair Paes with either Nagal or Ramkumar Ramanathan. While Ramkumar is primarily a singles player, Nagal is in poor form and has lost nine straight first-round matches on the Pro Circuit.

Paes questioned why AITA didn't field two specialist doubles teams. "Ramkumar Ramanathan is a very good player, and I would love to play doubles with him," he said. "But considering that he has a golden chance to win the singles medal, it is not fair to distract him from his best event."

Paes was to return to the Games after missing the previous two editions.

India have five players in the top 100 of ATP's doubles rankings: Bopanna (32), Sharan (38), Paes (79), Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (88) and Purav Raja (90). The next best two players -- N Sriram Balaji (112) and Vishnu Vardhan (115) -- were also in the top 100 some weeks ago.