Thu, 14 Jun 2012 19:35:30 GMT | By IANS

Tricky issues confront tennis selectors

Bangalore: Individual whims, backroom intrigue and politics are likely to dictate the selection of the Indian tennis contingent for the London Olympics as the All India Tennis Association's five-man selection committee meets here on Friday.

Tricky issues confront tennis selectors

Much of the debate centres around the doubles - men's and mixed. In the men's event, Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi have reportedly indicated that they would like to pair up as both have direct entry on the basis of their individual doubles rankings.

In the process, Leander Paes, who is ranked higher at seven than Bopanna (12) and Bhupathi (14), is the odd man out if reports that the other two doubles specialists have written to AITA wanting to team up, are to be believed.

To top it, there is an equally vexatious issue concerning the mixed doubles combination. Sania Mirza (current doubles ranking 12) and Bhupathi last week won their second Grand Slam title in the French Open, three years after taking the Australian Open crown.

Their recent success makes them the obvious combination with Paes again being left out. In 2006, Paes and Mirza won the gold at the Doha Asian Games, but lost in the quarter-finals at home in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Bhupathi had aired his thoughts at this year's Australian Open when he said the "politics of our association (AITA)" would decide whether or not he will pair up with Mirza at the Olympics.

In the meantime, the AITA is also making efforts to get a wild card entry for Mirza, who is currently ranked 238 in singles (as against career-high of 31 in 2005).

The five selectors -- Jaideep Mukerjea, Zeeshan Ali, S.P. Mishra, Rohit Rajpal and Balram Singh -- are understandably tight-lipped though in some quarters, it is strongly felt that Paes and Bhupathi should at least get together for the men's doubles as they did for 2004 Athens Olympics where they reached the semi-finals.

With Paes and Bhupathi parting ways for reasons best known to them, and Bopanna coming into the equation, the selectors indeed have some hard decisions to take on the morrow.

Interestingly, Paes and Bhupathi came together in 2011 after a nine-year break, chasing a career Slam, but lost in the Australian Open final and were semi-finalists at the year-ending Masters in London.

Eventually, the final decision on the doubles teams could rest on the two central figures, Paes and Bhupathi, and their comfort levels in coming together rather than technicalities.

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