Mumbai: Stung by the two-year ban imposed on him, Mahesh Bhupathi on Tuesday hit back at the AITA, accusing the parent body of resorting to “divide-and-rule” policy.
Bhupathi also told the media that he does not blame Leander Paes for the London Games fiasco over the selection of the teams.
He didn’t mince with words as he made a scathing attack on AITA and its president Anil Khanna, saying the AITA had a personal vendetta against him.
“Khanna has redefined the term divide-and-rule. Ahead of the London Olympics, he intentionally created a rift between Leander and me,” Bhupathi said at a press conference.
Bhupathi said he was now exploring legal options to contest against the ban.
“We are definitely pursuing a legal route. (My) lawyers are deciding the course of action,” he said.
Bhupathi informed that he was not intimated about the ban by AITA and also said that he was available for last week’s Davis Cup tie against New Zealand.
“I always feel like playing for India… I was available for the tie last week but no one from AITA asked me. I actually got the email about the ban from a press person.”
Bhupathi indicated that he may have played his last match for the country due to the ban. “Two years is a long time… I think I have played my last match for the country.”
Bhupathi also plans to retire from all kinds of tennis next year. “I’m getting old… Next year will be my last on the Tour definitely,” the 38-year-old said.
Talking about the fiasco over team selection ahead of the London Olympics, he said: “No one made an effort to talk to me or Leander. Zero effort was made to get us in a room and solve the issue.”
Though Leander and Bhupathi’s differences are well-documented, the latter refrained from saying anything against his former partner.
“Leander is not to be blamed for this. He is playing the part of a professional player and he wants to do the best he can do for himself. It is no secret that who should have been the right choice for mixed doubles in the Olympics based on past performances.”
Asked why he did not comment on these issues earlier, Bhupathi said: “It was frustrating for everyone concerned. But we went on doing our own work. (But) this (the ban) was the tilting point.
Questioned on why he does not contest the elections, Bhupathi said, “No one can contest the elections at present as there is a lot of loopholes in the system.”
Thank you all for coming, over the last two days I have been repeatedly asked to make a state¬ment regarding the ban/discipli¬nary action taken against Rohan (Boppana) and me by the AITA. I refrained from say¬ing anything in haste, as I did not want my response to be coming from an angry frame of mind.
In the 18 years that I have represented India, my integrity and patriotism has never been questioned… Hence, I have called this press conference after much thought and with an agenda to share a sequence of events that should bring to light facts that I believe you are un¬aware of, and with an intent to stand up against what I believe strongly is detrimental adminis¬tration for the growth of tennis in India.
I am not here to list my achievements. Rather, 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. Tennis has given me everything I am today and by god’s grace I am able to give back a lot to my sport, be it run¬ning tennis events, building ten¬nis courts, raising money for tal¬ented kids and even opening academies across the country. However, at every step of the way the establishment has put a spanner in the works. So much so that they changed the constitution to make sure we are not able to run any event in India without them being a part of it.
Over the years, funding for programs that I had started to train elite juniors becoming champions was suddenly shunned and multiple road¬blocks were created for the kids themselves. I can go on and on with instances but I was willing to deal with all these hurdles along the way on the pretext that the cream will always rise to the top. A lot of the times kids from our program were not given entries but despite all this even today the best junior in the country is Sumit Nagal who comes from our stable.
It has got to the point where nothing they do or say surpris¬es me anymore. As far as that establishment goes I have be¬come thick skinned. Tennis is in my blood and I will continue to do what I can for the sport in the country and if I have to prove myself from scratch again I will. When they crossed the line and imposed this ban on us a few days ago, I could no longer continue to sit and let it pass like I did all these years. My family have spent every¬thing they had and given every¬thing they have to get me to where I am today and at the twilight of my career to face a ban from playing for the county and termed a traitor is unac¬ceptable to me.
Anil Khanna has enjoyed the rift between Leander and me as no other. He has re de¬fined the term divide and rule and at this year’s Olympics, used Leander's shoulder to fire the gun against me multiple times.