Calcutta: With just over a fortnight to go for the Games, Sania Mirza, on Monday, confessed that she is yet to meet, speak or practice with Leander Paes — her mixed doubles partner at the London Olympics.
During an interaction with a television channel, the Indian tennis ace said: “I have not heard from, or met, Leander yet... He was playing in the Wimbledon (mixed doubles) final but I could not meet him. Captain SP Mishra contacted everybody saying that he wants everybody to be in London by July 23, and so I will be there by then… I hope we can start practice then.”
When most of the other Olympic pairs were seen playing together at the Wimbledon, the fact that the Indian duo are yet to discuss plans (practising together does not seem to be even a remote possibility, as of now) is certainly not ideal preparation. In a sport which carries the Indian hopes of a much–sought Olympic medal, the stars, surely, could have done better.
Sania, actually, went on to blame the bitter tennis selection controversy of creating bad blood among the players. “What the selection committee didn’t take into account was that Mahesh is a forehand player while I am a back-hand player…
“On the other hand, Leander is a back-hand player, just like me. Thus we both play on the same side of the court. That’s the reason why I haven’t played with Leander for the past couple of years,” Sania said.
She, however, added that Leander playing the Wimbledon final and her winning the French Open mixed doubles title will be an added advantage for the pair. “We had a good European summer and I hope this experience helps us.”
Sania said that though she preferred to partner Bhupathi for the mixed- doubles, she will have a good shot at a medal with Leander as well. “Leander is a very good player and long-time friend…
“I have played with him for long. It’s an honour to be playing with him in the Olympics. I am allowed to have preferences just like anyone else. But I am ready to partner anyone for my country.”
She went on to add that whatever negativity was there, is now a thing of the past. “The off-court controversies, hopefully, will not affect the Olympics. I cannot vouch for others, but I will give my 100 per cent to win”, she said.
On allegation that she was used as a bait by the AITA, she said: “The image of tennis was hurt but I was never a part of it…
“It was between the three guys. I don’t want to dwell on it. It was unfortunate. I want to assure India that I will want to add an Olympic medal to my tally.”