Bhupathi or Paes, who will Sania partner for London Olympics?

AITA’s selection committee, which meets in Bangalore on June 15, will debate who Sania Mirza should partner in mixed doubles for London Olympics, should the wildcard come through. Mahesh Bhupathi, with eight Grand Slam mixed doubles crowns to his credit, should be the automatic choice for a number of reasons.  Leander Paes, with six mixed Slam titles, is the option, but the fact that he also plays the forehand court, which is Sania’s strength, works against the pairing, says a report in The Times Of India.

Besides, Bhupathi and Sania have been playing together for a while now are great friends and work well as a team. Their combined ranking of 26 (Sania is ranked No.12 and Bhupathi No. 14) would help them make the cut. Bhupathi, however, can play the mixed event only if he plays the doubles — with either Rohan Bopanna (they make the cut comfortably) or Paes.

Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza’s win in the French Open gives a fresh twist to India’s London challenge. India’s best chance for a medal in tennis, after all, is in the mixed doubles and not in the men’s doubles.

“India’s best bet for a medal in the men’s doubles at the Olympics was always going to be Lee-Hesh. Despite their lack of success in the Olympics, where they’ve played together four times, the old boys could’ve pulled off a trick or two at the All England Club in July. What they have is history. What they lack is trust,” says the TOI report.

Meanwhile Mail Today reports that it is no secret that as far as Olympic preparations go, the best effort on and off the court has been made by Bhupathi and Bopanna as they decided at the start of the year that they wanted to play together.

“However, insiders in the tennis circle feel that the selectors may be again under pressure, and how. As Paes is in the top 10, he has the right to choose his partner! Well, this is something new as earlier no player was given the right to select his partner and that right rested with the selectors. However, if sources in the AITA are to be believed, there is talk of putting Paes with Bhupathi or Bopanna,” says the report, adding that the fact is, Paes does not talk to Bhupathi or Bopanna.

“The last time Paes played with Bopanna was a disaster as they lost in the Davis Cup away tie against Uzbekistan in March. As regards Paes pairing with Bhupathi, that would be committing the same mistake that happened in 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing,” adds the report.