AITA rejects Sania's claims, says team selected on merit

New Delhi: The All India Tennis Association (AITA) Wednesday rejected claims made by Sania Mirza that she was made a bait to pacify Leander Paes and said that pairing them for the mixed doubles event of the Olympics was done purely on merit.

Sania in a strongly worded statement Tuesday night ripped apart the AITA and didn't spare Paes and Bhupathi either for the selection controversy for the Olympics.

But the AITA defending its selection strategy said their decision to pair Paes and Sania was purely on merit as they are two highest ranked players in India.

"As regards selection of teams, the selection committee on 21st June, the last date for nomination, noted that Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna had made themselves not available for selection with Leander Paes despite efforts of AITA. The committee then selected Leander Paes with Vishnu Vardhan as his doubles partner as Vishnu Vardhan was the preferred partner and also silver medallist in Asian Games. The committee also decided that wild card application be made for Somdev Devvarman and for Sania Mirza for both women's singles as well as women's doubles as without a wild card she will not be eligible to play mixed doubles.

"The committee, thereafter, selected world No. 7 and India No. 1 Leander Paes to partner world No. 12 and India No. 1 Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles Olympics event. With a combined ranking of 19 they were placed 9th in the top 12 teams to be eligible for mixed doubles. This selection is purely on merits," AITA secretary general Bharat Oza said.

AITA said it respects all its players and is fully aware of the accomplishments of Sania as an excellent tennis player.

"AITA believes that Leander & Sania together are capable of producing fantastic results in the Olympics. The final decision of the selection committee has already been communicated to the IOA on 21st June 2012. We earnestly appeal to all the players to unite together, shed off all their differences, stop going public and join hands together in the best national interest of winning medals for the country and to bring glory to the nation," she said. (IANS)