Just days after the All India Tennis Association (AITA) decided to partner Sania Mirza with Leander Paes in the mixed doubles event at the London Olympics 2012, the top Indian women's player has opened up about being used as a 'bait' to pacify the men players.
Mirza, who was given wild card along with another player Somdev Devvarman for the Olympics, criticised Leander Paes, Paes' father Vece Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and AITA for using her as a "bait to try and pacify one of the disgruntled stalwarts of Indian tennis" in a press release late on Tuesday.
The top tennis player further lashed out at Paes' father Vece Paes, who demanded Sania's written approval to team up with his son, saying that her commitment was to her country.
"For the sake of India I am committed to play with Leander Paes or Mahesh Bhupathi or Rohan Bopanna or Somdev Devvarman or Vishnu Vardhan or any other person that my country feels I am good enough to partner. There should never ever be a question on this although if asked, I am entitled to have my preferences. I will do everything i possibly can to win a medal for India," she said, according to NDTV.
The trouble began when AITA announced that Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi would be teamed up to play mixed doubles event at the Olympics. However, Bhupathi refused to partner with Paes and wanted to play with Bopanna.
Following this, Paes threatened to pull out of the Olympics if he had to partner with a lower-ranked player.
The AITA finally reached out a compromise formula in the selection controversy on June 21 and decided to send two teams. While announcing the decision during a press conference, AITA president Anil Khanna stated that Mahesh Bhupathi will be paired with Rohan Bopanna while Leander Paes will be paired with Vishnu Vardhan.
AITA also announced that Paes would be paired with Sania Mirza to play the mixed doubles tournament at the Olympics.
Sania, who had maintained her silence while the AITA was going through a selection crisis, has finally spoken up, following her selection for the Olympics. Sania blamed male chauvinism behind her being made to play with Paes in order to prevent him from pulling out of the Olympics.
Meanwhile, AITA has rejected Sania's allegations saying that they respect Sania's accomplishments but the decision to pair Paes with her was purely based on merit.
"AITA respects all its players and is fully aware of the accomplishments of Sania Mirza as an excellent tennis player. AITA believes that Leander and Sania together are capable of producing fantastic results in the Olympics," Indian news agency Press Trust of India quoted AITA secretary general Bharat Oza as saying in a statement.