BENGALURU: Indian tennis veteran Leander Paes was dropped from the Davis Cup squad by the newly appointed non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi. Paes was initially put in the reserve team for the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I, Round II tie against Uzbekistan, to be played from Friday at the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association here.
The debutant N Sriram Balaji will now partner experienced campaigner Rohan Bopanna for the doubles rubber.
As it seems, Bhupathi-Paes off the court egoistic rivalry continues. Paes’ former doubles partner Bhupathi said he chose coordination over form for the selection. “It obviously was a tough decision. That’s why I wanted to wait till the last minute. The conditions are quick here. Rohan Bopanna has been serving well and seeing the ball well. He’s had a good start to the year so that was the basis,” he said.
However, Paes argued on the team selection criteria. “I was told the criterion was form. That being said, the team was chosen two weeks ago based on ITF form in Futures whereas I just won an ATP Challenger. If he talks about conditions, Bangalore’s altitude is 920 metre and Mexico’s altitude is more than 1800m. When I got here on Wednesday morning for practice, I was feeling the ball very well. So form criterion obviously doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems to fluctuate a lot,” he said.
The 43-year-old veteran although cleared all the criteria mentioned by Bhupathi and All India Tennis Association (AITA), he couldn’t manage one - joining the team practice from first day. He was playing the Leon Challenger in Mexico (which he won) and could only join the team on Wednesday but his first practice session had to be called off due to rain.
“If I had a full team here on Sunday and Monday, I probably would have had time to make a dedicated decision. These boys have been here since Sunday. Balaji and Rohan have been playing a lot of sets. Doubles in Davis Cup is always a high stress situation so throwing Leander and Bala in would have been another roll of the dice for me. Considering I have two debutants I wasn’t willing to take that risk,” Bhupathi said defending his choice to pick Bopanna and Balaji over Paes.
Paes urged that the criteria should be clear for all. “Mahesh is the captain - so he has the right to choose. But the criteria should be clear, it should not change weekend to weekend, tie to tie, Olympics to Olympics,” Paes said.