Kolkata, Dec 27 (IANS) Ace Indian tennis coach and former Davis cup captain Akhtar Ali believes that the pair of Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes would be the best team the country can put up for the doubles event at Rio Olympics next year.
“Bopanna and Paes — it is a good team. And there’s nobody else. Bopanna’s always had a big serve, that is a big advantage and he is now higher ranked than Leander. That is the best team India can put up and they have a very good chance,” Ali told IANS. However, the last time the duo got together was in September for the Davis Cup and had lost to Radek Stepanek and Adam Pavlasek of Czech Republic. A few days back Paes had expressed the wish to partner Bopanna in the men’s doubles and Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles event in Rio, but Paes’ childhood coach Ali said: “It does not matter what he wants, what Sania wants that is what matters. It is up to her.
“It is important for Sania to know how well she can play combining with Leander, So it is up to her (to chose Paes as partner.) There are only two players. Sania has to choose whether to play with Paes or Bopanna.” Father of Davis Cup tennis star Zeeshan, Ali said getting a medal at the quadrennial world event would be very tough.
“It’s going to be very tough. But in (men’s) doubles we have a better chance than mixed doubles,” he said. The 77-year-old also lauded the efforts of Leander Paes and said that fitness has been his key to success. “Leander has kept his body fit, he has looked after himself always. He is a great athlete and you see in doubles guys older guys are doing well. They are making their experience count. I don’t see a very young team playing doubles these days.”
Asked why the Indians have failed to produce world-class singles player, Ali said it is because of tradition. “Traditionally our young players play a lot of doubles, some guys were just not good enough for singles. There were Leander and Sania but they could not cope. After a few years they got slow,” he said.
“Another thing about doubles, you are not playing the best players in the world. Most of the times players feature as doubles specialists because they are older and they love it with the two sets and then the tie breaker. They cover just half the court. Indian players know they don’t have much chance in singles. As a profession, as ways of making money they have decided to do it and they are doing very well.”
Speaking on the International Tennis Premier League (IPTL) which has now brought the likes of stars like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to India, Ali quipped: “It is an opportunity for Indians to see the best in the game, Nadal and Federer. It is good for the game is being promoted. They are playing the best at the moment, future stars and present best players. It’s a very good platform.” (Debdoot Das can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)