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Monday, Oct 18, 2021
Outlook.com
Outlook.com

The Grand Slam

The Hyderabadi rips into AITA, Lee-Hesh, 'Vece Uncle', male chauvinism, and says she expects 'a little more respect from the National Tennis Federation.'

The Grand Slam
| File: AP Photo/ Mic Smith
The Grand Slam
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

I feel absolutely thrilled and emotionally overwhelmed to have qualified to represent India at the Olympics in London. I am extremely grateful to the International Tennis Federation for the faith they have reposed in me by giving me a wild card entry that gives me a cherished opportunity to represent my country at the Olympics for the second time in my life.

While, of course, nobody in the world can guarantee winning a medal in London, I can promise that I shall leave no stone unturned to bring glory to my beloved country.

I have to admit that helplessly watching the sport that I love and passionately play, go through extremely trying times in my country in the last few days and the unusual pressures that I was personally subjected to have left me shaken and disturbed. But I can assure all my countrymen that I shall never allow these difficult circumstances to come in the way of giving my very best when the Games begin.

Since the day AITA announced the team for the Olympics a lot of questions have been raised by friends, colleagues, their parents and of course, by the media. As I thought these questions were purely hypothetical without my having qualified into the London Olympics, I did not think it was appropriate for me to respond to them at that point of time. However, now that I am officially a part of the greatest sporting event in the world, I think it is imperative for me to clarify my feelings.

To Dr. Vece Paes, who has on camera asked me to give in writing about my intention of partnering his son for the mixed doubles event at the Olympics, I would like to point out that my commitment is to my country. For the sake of India I am committed to play with Leander Paes or Mahesh Bhupathi or Rohan Bopanna or Somdev Devvarman or Vishnu Vardhan or any other person that my country feels I am good enough to partner. There should never ever be a question on this although if asked, I am entitled to have my preferences. I will do everything i possibly can to win a medal for Inda.

To Leander Paes I would like to point out that Vishnu Vardhan is an extremely talented player, who I had the privilege of partnering. We went on to win a silver medal for India at the 2010 Asian Games, when all the three male stalwarts of Indian tennis had opted to stay away from Guangzhou. I am convinced that he can go one better when pitted with someone as good as Leander as partner. For Leander to consider partnering with Vishnu only if he has a written assurance from me to play mixed (as Vece Uncle has suggested in his television interviews) is, I think demeaning for me, Vishnu and Leander Paes.

Mahesh Bhupathi has firmly stood by his commitment to play together with his men's doubles partner, Rohan Bopanna as he genuinely believed it was good for India. However, in the process, he sacrificed the commitment he made to me to try and win an Olympic medal together for India. Each person has his or her own priorities and I would like to believe that Mahesh made his choice in the best interests of the country.

As an Indian woman belonging to the 21st century, what I find disillusioning is the humiliating manner in which I was put up as a bait to try and pacify one of the disgruntled stalwarts of Indian tennis. While I feel honored and privileged to have been chosen to partner Leander Paes, the manner and timing of the announcement wreaks [sic] of male chauvinism where a two time Grand Slam champion, who has been India's number 1 women's tennis player for almost a decade in singles and doubles is offered in compensation to partner one of the feuding champions purely in order to lure him into accepting to play with a men's player he does not wish to play with! This kind of blatant humiliation of Indian womanhood needs to be condemned even if it comes from the highest controlling body of tennis in our country.

I have been fortunate to achieve a career best singles ranking of 27 in the world that has been only bettered by Vijay Amritraj (16) and Ramesh Krishnan (23) even amongst the men in the modern era. I have a career best doubles ranking of 7 in the world, which only Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have bettered. I am the only Grand Slam champion from India apart from Mahesh and Leander. I believe I can expect a little more respect from the National Tennis Federation than what has been accorded to me even if they did not think it necessary to send me a simple congratulatory message after I had won my second Grand Slam title 3 weeks ago.

What is even more shocking is the manner in which facts have been misrepresented to the public at large to paint a totally wrong picture in an attempt to justify the breaking up of a team that won a second Grand Slam title only days earlier. Leander and I are not the only combination likely to get a direct entry into the mixed doubles draw at the Olympics, as has been wrongly portrayed. If that was true, a highly intelligent man like Dr. Paes would not have felt insecure enough to ask for my written declaration to partner Leander. AITA, itself would not have needed to write a letter to Mr. Randhir Singh giving details of the final pairings and clarifying that these could not be changed without the written permission of the IOA!

I would like to reiterate that I consider it the ultimate honour to represent India to the best of my abilities at the Olympics and I will do everything I possibly can with whosoever I am partnered with. This has always been my stand and this will never change. I only seek the blessings of the people of our beloved country. Nothing more.

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