India's Paes threatens Olympic doubles pullout

India's doubles specialist Leander Paes has threatened to pull out of the London Olympics if paired with a lower-ranked player in the men's event, local media reported Wednesday.

The All-India Tennis Association (AITA) last week announced just one combination for the event, selecting a reluctant Mahesh Bhupathi to play with former doubles partner Paes.

But Bhupathi publicly stated that he wanted to play with his current partner Rohan Bopanna, saying they had requested the AITA consider them for selection only as a team and not as individuals to be "paired with any other players".

Bopanna and Bhupathi have both turned down the offer to play with Paes, who said Wednesday he was "comfortable" to partner either of them.

"If Mahesh or Rohan refuse to play with me for our country, then I am happy to play with the next best player that the AITA decides on," local news channel NDTV quoted Paes as saying in a letter to AITA.

"However, it would not be acceptable... if I am made to play the Olympics with a player ranked 207/306 in the world while the No. 13 and No. 15-ranked players form another team together based on their refusal to play with me.

"If this is the case then for the sake of Indian tennis and to relieve the AITA in regard to the selection of the team, I have no other option but to withdraw from the Olympics," Paes said in the letter.

Paes' number seven doubles world ranking gives him direct entry to the London Games and allows him to play with any ranked player.

Bhupathi and Bopanna also make the cut as a team, but if AITA insists on pairing Bhupathi with Paes, then Bopanna cannot make it to the Games with any other Indian player.

If Bhupathi and Bopanna combine as a team, Paes would have to play with a lower-ranked and inexperienced player.

Paes said his decision to withdraw from the Games was not made "with any rancour".

"We cannot be condoning or rewarding the drama enacted by Mahesh and Rohan. This would be a bad precedent for current and future sports persons (particularly tennis players) in our country."

Paes, who won the men's singles bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and Bhupathi have figured in the doubles at four Olympics, but failed to win a medal.

The AITA will name the doubles players on Thursday, the last date to nominate teams for the Games.

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