Veteran tennis star Paes pulls out of Asian Games

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JAKARTA, Aug 16 (PTI): Miffed at not getting a ‘specialist’ men’s doubles partner, veteran tennis star Leander Paes on Thursday pulled out of the 18th Asian Games starting on Saturday.

The 45-year-old Indian, winner of 18 Grand Slams, was asked to team up with struggling singles player Sumit Nagal after All India Tennis Association (AITA) agreed to pair country’s top doubles players Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan in the men’s doubles, on their request.

Paes was already miffed at his exclusion from TOP Scheme but had made himself available for the Asian Games, where he has won eight medals, including five gold.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have to say that I will not be playing the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia,” Paes said in a statement sent to PTI.

“Despite my repeated requests, from so many weeks in advance, it is sad that we have not been able to put a doubles specialist in the team for a credible second doubles pairing for the Asian Games.”

With Sharan and Bopanna deciding to play together, captain Zeeshan Ali had no choice but to pair Paes with Nagal or Ramkumar Ramanathan.

While Ramkumar is primarily a singles player and plays doubles occasionally, Nagal is in terrible form. He has lost nine straight first round matches on the Pro circuit, coming into the Asian Games.

Paes has questioned why AITA didn’t field two specialist doubles teams.

“Ramkumar Ramanathan is a very good player, and I would love to play doubles with him. But considering that he has a golden chance to win the singles medal, it is not fair to distract him from his best event,” Paes said further in the statement.

Paes was to return to the Games after missing the previous two editions.

“Our doubles specialists like Sriram Balaji, Vishnu Vardhan, Purav Raja and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan have been doing exceptionally well this season and one of them definitely deserved to strengthen the Asian Games squad,” Paes said.

India as of now have five players in top-100 Bopanna (32), Sharan (38), Paes (79), Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (88) and Purav Raja (90).

The next best two players N Sriram Balaji (112) and Vishnu Vardhan (115)  were also in top-100 some weeks back.

Paes, however, asserted that his absence would not adversely affect India’s chances.

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