18-time Grand Slam champion Leander Paes has been left out of the Indian team for Davis Cup World Group tie against Canada, scheduled between 15 and 17 September.
The six-member team, headed by non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi, was announced on Monday, August 14. Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Saketh Myneni, Rohan Bopanna are part of the four-memeber core team, while Sriram Balaji and Gunneswaran Prajnesh have been added as reserves.
Paes is no longer the selectors' favourite, especially after the infamous spat between the veteran tennis star and Bhupathi following India's 4-1 win over Uzbekistan in Asia/Oceania Zone Group I in Bengaluru earlier this year.
Paes was part of India's six-man squad for the Uzbekistan tie, but he was dropped for the final four-man squad -- for the first time in 27 years, which prompted him to leave the tie mid-way. Bhupathi then took to Facebook to reveal he never promised the 44-year-old a spot in the final-four.
Paes argued that he was told the selection would be made based on form and that the process was not followed. He also said the Bhupati was "disrespectful" as the decision to drop was made even before he had arrived in Bengaluru for the tie.
Paes not even approached
It has now emerged that Paes has not even been approached by the All India Tennis Federation (AITA) over his availability as the governing body has stressed on the importance of selecting a team based on ranking.
Also, India are focused on having three singles specialists and one doubles specialist, which has worked in favour of Bopanna, who is ranked as high as 17.
Notably, Paes just needed one more win to match Italy great Nicola Pietrangeli's world record of 42 Davis Cup doubles wins.
"We didn't check about his availability because we wanted to select a team based on ranking. That will be the main basis for selection in the future as well," AITA general secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee had told The Indian Express.
Bopanna though was axed from the team for the tie against New Zealand in February as a response to his pull-out from the World Group Play-off tie in September 2016. It was widely believed the 37-year-old faked an injury and the AITA slammed him saying, he did not have "a special feeling to play for the country."
Bopanna partnered with Sriram and made a winning return against Uzbekistan. He has been in fine form in the ongoing season as well, winning the Monte Carlo Masters and French Open mixed doubles titles. On Sunday, August 13, he finished as runner-up in the Men's doubles event at Rogers Cup.
Paes had been inconsistent this season and his partnership with Vishnu Vardhan in the Men's doubles rubber against New Zealand did not work well. The veteran, in fact, appeared to be the weaker of the two players.
It will now be interesting to see who partners with Bopanna for the doubles rubber against Canada as India has a great chance of collecting a point in the said category.
India will be bolstered by the return of Bhambri, who missed the tie against Uzbekistan due to injury. The 25-year-old is in fine form and he went on to beat Gael Monfils in the R32 of Washington Open, a Masters 1000 tournament, earlier this month.
However, the singles players will face stiff competition from the likes of Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov, who are likely to be in Canada's squad.