Leander Paes returned to the India Davis Cup squad for the China tie, when the AITA selection team convened in Delhi on Sunday. The tie will be played in the Asia/Oceanie Zone Group 1 second round at Tianjin, China in the first week of April. He is joined by India’s other top ranked doubles specialist in Rohan Bopanna. The singles players choose themselves in Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal.
Paes was dropped from the tie against Uzbekistan last April. He has been out of favour since the fiasco in Bengaluru when he was not included in the starting line-up by captain Mahesh Bhupathi and it led to public statements being made by the duo which once again brought their strained relationship into light. However, in the statement on Sunday, AITA said, that the players need to sort things out in the interest of the nation.
“The Chairman (SP Misra) informed the Committee that the Executive Committee discussed the Davis Cup in its meeting held on 10th March and noted the reservations expressed by the players. It was finally decided by the Executive Committee that the Selection Committee should select the best team irrespective of the reservations. Any issues between the players had to be settled in a nice manner in the interest of the nation between themselves,” read the note.
According to sources in the AITA, Bhupathi had written to Misra that Bopanna had expressed wish to “sit out” of the China tie, to allow Paes get his Davis Cup world record, effectively conveying that he was not willing to pair up with the legend for this tie. “This matter was discussed in the EC yesterday and according to the captain, Rohan is still carrying a baggage and there is no on-court chemistry between them (Bopanna and Paes). The captain also felt that it was only Leander, who can convince Bopanna to play with him and that he must communicate with Bopanna,” an AITA official told PTI. “Look, he (Bopanna) gets grants from the government. If he refuses to play for the country, leaving behind personal differences, AITA won’t support such players. They have to play only twice or thrice a year for India. Can’t they play without an agenda for two weeks,” the irked AITA official remarked. Paes is one win away from surpassing Nicola Pietrangeli of Italy for a world record 43rd Davis Cup doubles win.
“I am happy to make a comeback to the Indian team. I have worked hard and moved my ranking up. I am looking forward towards playing Rohan. We can make a good combination. I respect Rohan’s talent as a player,” Paes told PTI.
With Paes coming in, Purav Raja has been dropped with Divij Sharan standing in as a reserve. The veteran of Indian tennis is back in the top-50 of doubles rankings boosted by the runner-up finish at the ATP 500 event in Dubai.