My pairing with Bopanna best medal prospect at Rio: Paes

Kolkata, Dec 23 (IANS) Indian tennis ace Leander Paes on Wednesday said if he partners Rohan Bopanna in the men’s doubles event in the Rio Olympics next year, they will have the best chance of grabbing a medal.

“Pretty obvious in the men’s doubles that Rohan and myself have the best chance of going out there and winning the medal. Rohan has been playing some wonderful tennis, he has been playing with (Florin) Mergea and has done well. With Rohan and myself playing doubles for India, I think we have a great chance of grabbing a medal,” Paes told reporters here where he had come as IDBI’s Kolkata Marathon’s ‘Face of the Event’.

“I had wanted to play with him in London. In the grass courts it was a great platform for us to do well.”

Four years back in London, Paes had to partner Vishnu Vardhan and they lost in the second round. He then combined with Sania Mirza but bowed out to the eventual mixed doubles champions Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi of Belarus.

The 42-year-old believes based on current performance he and Mirza should be sent to represent the country in the mixed doubles event.

“With Sania Mirza, I played at London, we lost to the eventual champions, Azarenka, Mirnyi. We had a great chance in that game too. We have both had good seasons, so on merit it is an obvious choice to let me and Sania go. But after what happened in London I don’t think anything can be taken for granted,” he said pointing to the fact that he was paired with Vardhan who during the London Olympics was ranked 209.

Both Mahesh Bhupathi and Bopanna refused to play doubles with Paes, after which the national tennis federation persuaded Sania Mirza to play with the veteran Kolkatan. And Paes paired up with lowly ranked Vardhan.

The nine-time mixed doubles Grand Slam winner said he is focussing on the event more as he has been successful in it in the last few years.

“For Rio I have focussed a lot on mixed doubles, I have been focussed on the Grand Slams as mixed doubles is only played in four Grand Slams. And having a wonderful partner in Martina Hingis has allowed me to do that. Winning three of the four Grand Slams leading into the Olympics, it’s pretty obvious where my focus is,” he said.

“Having got the medal in singles already in the Olympics to do it in the doubles and mixed doubles is something I am focussing on.”

The tennis star added that he is looking forward to playing alongside Bopanna and Sania if he gets the opportunity and that representing the country and getting a medal is the foremost thing on his mind.

“Let’s see how the next six months turn up. I hope another London does not happen. But representing the country is the foremost thing in mind. And I think the best team should go and represent the country and it should be done on merit. I am looking forward to playing with Sania and Rohan if I get the opportunity.”

“I hope to have a chance at winning the medal and then hang that on my showcase along with the single’s medal,” concluded Paes who will set a record if he features in Rio for playing in the most number of Olympics as a tennis star.

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