NEW DELHI – India’s top woman tennis player, Sania Mirza, blasted the national federation for using her as “bait” while working out a compromise during an ongoing row over team selection for the Olympics.
Sania said in a statement late Tuesday that her interests were ignored in a bid to pacify senior player Leander Paes, who had threatened to pull out of the London contingent after being paired with little known Vishnu Vardhan.
Paes was asked to partner Vardhan after Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna refused to partner Paes in London because they have been playing together on the ATP circuit.
The All India Tennis Association tried to pacify Paes by naming him to the mixed doubles team even though Bhupathi and Sania recently won the French Open.
“As an Indian woman belonging to the 21st century, what I find disillusioning is the humiliating manner in which I was put up as bait to try and pacify one of the disgruntled stalwarts of Indian tennis,” Sania said in the statement.
“While I feel honored and privileged to have been chosen to partner Leander, the manner and timing of the announcement reeks of male chauvinism where a two-time Grand Slam champion, who has been India’s No. 1 women’s tennis player for almost a decade in singles and doubles is offered in compensation to partner one of the feuding champions in order to lure him into accepting to play with a men’s player he does not wish to play with!”
Sania, whose statement added that she had achieved a career-high ranking of No. 27 with only two Indian men – Vijay Amritraj (16) and Ramesh Krishnan (23) — having done better, was also disappointed at the attitude shown by Paes and Bhupathi and that Vardhan deserved more respect.
“To Leander, I would like to point out that Vishnu is an extremely talented player. For Leander to consider partnering with Vishnu only if he has a written assurance from me to play mixed doubles is, I think, demeaning for me, Vishnu and Leander,” said Sania, who had won the mixed doubles silver with Vardhan at the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010.
AITA responded to Sania’s statement Wednesday, saying the team had been selected on merit and that players should concentrate on doing well at the Olympics.— Agencies