India’s legendary tennis player Leander Paes has pulled out of the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. The 18th edition of the Asian Games gets underway August 18.
The Indian tennis contingent reached Palembang on Thursday for the Asian Games but the biggest name in the squad, Paes, was missing.
“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 credible second doubles pairing for the Asian Games.”
The 45-year-old Paes, who last played at the Asian Games in 2006, is in the twilight of his career. He has five gold medals to his name in the Asian Games, starting from the Hiroshima edition in 1994.
Paes was expected to team up with Ramkumar Ramanathan or Sumit Nagal at the showpiece event.
“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.
Meanwhile, veteran player Rohan Bopanna has recovered from a shoulder injury and will partner Divij Sharan in the men’s doubles event at the Asian Games.
Paes, however, asserted that his absence would not adversely affect India’s chances. “Rather than affecting the team’s chances, I believe that my absence would only help the rest to play more events, be it doubles or mixed doubles,” he said.
“I have been in constant touch with Captain Zeeshan Ali and have had long discussions with him with regard to Rohan Bopanna’s injury. I am happy to learn that Rohan has recovered and as such a doubles medal for India is almost assured. Without his availability, it wouldn’t have been fair for me to withdraw as that may have impacted a possible gold from tennis.”
Bopanna too last played at the Games more than a decade ago and is looking forward to the next one week.
“I would have played earlier also but the 10-day schedule did not allow me to do that. Now it is a week-long thing which means I only miss one tournament and not two,” said Bopanna.