LONDON: India’s Rohan Bopanna insists the selection row that saw his doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi refuse to play with Leander Paes is now firmly in the past.
Bhupathi was furious when All India Tennis Association (AITA) chiefs ignored his request not to be paired with Paes at the Olympics following the breakdown of the successful doubles pairing’s relationship.
The controversy turned ugly when Bhupathi accusing Paes of lying to him on several occasions and changing his partner during a tournament in November 2011 without informing him.
After several weeks of tension, Bhupathi, who wrote to the AITA to protest their decision, finally got his wish to play with Bopanna at the Games, while Paes was paired with Vishnu Vardhan.
Bhupathi and Bopanna, seeded seventh, are among the leading contenders for an Olympic medal at Wimbledon and they kicked off their challenge with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (4/7), 8-6 victory over Max Mirnyi and Alexander Bury of Belarus in the first round on Monday.
Bopanna made it clear that the dispute with Paes is no longer on their minds because they are firmly focused on bringing home a medal.
“The baggage is forgotten and gone, long gone. We got here well prepared so for us it’s just one match at a time and take it from there,” Bopanna said.
“We are happy that we got a lot of practice here for the last week and now to play this tough match and take a win is just going to take our confidence higher.”
The Indian team will face French duo Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau in the second round and Bopanna is confident they are in good enough form to enjoy a long run in the event.
“We were playing at a high level,” he said. “I don’t think we were nervous at all.
“We played a really tough team, Mirnyi is number one in the world (in doubles). Obviously it was a very tough game out there, but we played our game and came through on top.”
Bhupathi agreed that it was a good win, but he warned the duo can’t afford to let opponents off the hook when they are on top.
“You’ve got to give us some credit, we fought back after a bad call and three break points in the same game on my serve,” he said.
“It was rough and we are just happy with the win. But we didn’t want to be in that situation. We should have closed it in two sets.”