My pairing with Bopanna India’s best medal hope at Rio: Paes

New Delhi, June 7 (IANS) Veteran doubles specialist Leander Paes said on Tuesday his partnership with Rohan Bopanna will be India’s best bet for a medal at the Rio Olympics.

It will be Leander’s record-setting seventh appearance at the mega event for his country. But his dream has seen a potential roadblock after falling down the men’s doubles rankings in recent times.

He moved up five spots to 46 in the latest men’s rankings but that wasn’t enough to get a direct qualification berth for Rio.

Bopanna grabbed that berth after gaining a place in the top 10 rankings and has the luxury of choosing his partner from among Paes, Purav Raja (103) Divij Sharan (114), Saketh Myneni (125), Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (134) and Mahesh Bhupathi (164) for the Rio Games.

“Without a shadow of doubt, Rohan and me are the best team for a medal at Rio. I am sure that AITA (All India Tennis Association) will send the best team in doubles for Rio,” Paes said at a press conference here.

Bopanna has a history of bitter relation with Paes after refusing to partner him during the London 2012 Games. Paes’ relationship with Bopanna and Bhupathi has been a long-standing issue for Indian tennis.

India’s doubles star Rohan Bopanna says the bitterness that had developed between him and Paes in the build-up to the 2012 London Games is “long gone and over” and he was not averse to playing with the Kolkatan again for the sake of the country.

Paes won the recent French Open mixed doubles title with his Swiss partner Martina Hingis, his 18th Major victory. But his mixed doubles form didn’t translate into success in men’s doubles with the 42-year-old losing in the quarter-finals of the major event.

The right-hander, however, remains positive in his approach and said his first-ever mixed doubles trophy at Rolland Garros was a career highlight and showed he has still got it.

“This French Open trophy is very special, we have shown the world that Indians can be world beaters,” he added.

His advancing age has forced him to face uncomfortable questions regarding his future and willingness to retire, but Paes remained coy to make a call, playing the guessing game when asked again.

“One day curtains gonna come down, maybe at Rio, maybe after another Grand Slam, may be after another 2-3 years…the day I feel am done,” he said.

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