Mumbai: Tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi criticized the All India Tennis Association (AITA) for its “dictatorial attitude” and its “divide-and-rule policies”, which he said, was harming Indian tennis. He added that the president of the AITA, Anil Khanna, had carried out a personal vendetta against him over the last decade.
The AITA had on Sunday barred Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna from playing for India till 30 June 2014 as a reaction to the players’ refusal to partner with anyone else in the London Olympics held between 27 July and 12 August. This ban meant the two players will not be able to compete in any Davis Cup ties and would possibly be available next only for the Asian Games in South Korea in September 2014.
Reacting to the AITA decision, in a press conference in Mumbai on Tuesday, Bhupathi said they were considering a legal option to the ban without specifying any details.
The 38-year-old, who has won 12 major (doubles and mixed doubles) titles on the professional tour, said Khanna has “enjoyed the rift between Leander (Paes) and me as no other” and that “Leander is not to be blamed” for the controversy before the Olympics.
“He (Khanna) has redefined the term divide and rule and at this year’s Olympics, used Leander’s shoulder to fire the gun against me multiple times. Unfortunately, the media terms this as Bhupathi-Paes rift and the true underbelly is left unquestioned,” said Bhupathi.
“The association has taken full advantage of the situation knowing that we as players have no authority to question them or to make any stand in our defence,” he read out from a statement.
“As far as I am concerned, I was always banned by the AITA; they never supported me for anything I did for the sport. Only when they couldn’t do without me and they needed the doubles point in David Cup, I got an email,” Bhupathi said.
He said the executive committee, which had announced the decision on Sunday, was a one-man committee and that’s how the sport has been governed for a long time.
The AITA does not have a code of conduct, which means it does not have the authority to ban a player; but the AITA secretary Bharat Oza had said the disciplinary action was meant to send a message across to players who aspire to play for India. The ban does not prevent Bhupathi, who won the French Open mixed doubles title this year with Sania Mirza, from playing on the ATP Tour or in Grand Slam events.
The AITA had initially selected Paes to partner Bopanna in the Olympics. But Bhupathi and Bopanna refused to accept the arrangement for professional and personal reasons, after which two teams were sent to London. Paes partnered Vishnu Vardhan in the doubles. Both combinations failed to win a medal. “The AITA would not have taken this step if we had done better,” said Bhupathi.
Bhupathi made his debut in Davis Cup in 1995 and has played 35 ties (55 matches) with a win/loss record of 8/14 in singles and 27/6 in doubles. He last played in September 2011 against Japan in a tie India lost 1-4, the only win coming in doubles with Bhupathi and Bopanna. The two men were not selected for the Asia-Oceania Group I tie against New Zealand in Chandigarh held last week (14-16 September).
“Two years is a long time,” said Bhupathi about the ban. “I have played my last for India.
“And next year is definitely my last on the (professional) tour as well,” he added.