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Tennis: Mahesh Bhupathi says he’s ‘vendetta’ victim after Olympics row

  • by SUDIPTO GANGULY
 

India doubles specialist Mahesh Bhupathi, who was handed a two-year ban last week, has 
accused the country’s tennis association of carrying out “a 
personal vendetta” against him.

Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna refused to partner Leander Paes at this year’s London Olympics and that escalated into an ugly row which forced the All India Tennis Association (AITA) to change their original decision to field Paes and Bhupathi as a pair.

Paes partnered rookie Vishnu Vardhan while India had a second pair in Bhupathi and Bopanna but neither won a medal.

Bhupathi, 38, told a media conference that 2013 would be his last year on the professional tour and added: “I am here to detail episodes of the personal vendetta the AITA and its dictatorial rule have carried out against me over the last decade. It has got to the point where nothing they do or say surprises me anymore. As far as that establishment goes I have become thick skinned.”

Paes and Bhupathi joined forces in a formidable partnership in the late 1990s, winning three grand slams but the duo are now not even on speaking terms after a second acrimonious split last year.

Bhupathi blamed AITA president Anil Khanna for the deteriorating relation with his former friend Paes.

“Anil Khanna has enjoyed the rift between Leander and me as no other,” Bhupathi said. “He has re-defined the term divide and rule and, at this year’s Olympics, used Leander’s shoulder to fire the gun against me multiple times.”

Bhupathi called for the current AITA regime to resign and make way for the next generation to take over.

“At the twilight of my career to face a ban from playing for the country and be termed a traitor is unacceptable to me,” Bhupathi, who has won 12 grand slam doubles titles, said.

“If I am to stand trial after what I have achieved in my sport over the last 18 years, I am 
willing to, but I need to know who will ask the establishment questions?”

Meanwhile, top seed Marion Bartoli was forced to retire during the opening set of her first-round match at the Guangzhou International Women’s Open.

Bartoli, currently ranked 10th in the world, was trailing 4-3 to qualifier Kai-Chen Chang before an injury led to her withdrawal from the match.

Jie Zheng of China, the tournament second seed, also benefited from a retirement in her opening match when opponent Yung-Jan Chan pulled out while trailing 5-3 in the first set.

Zheng will now meet Britain’s Laura Robson in the second round after her victory over Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor on 
Monday.

 

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