New Delhi, Jan 30: India’s top tennis player Leander Paes Wednesday broke his silence on the revolt against the All India Tennis Association (AITA) by eight players, led by Somdev Devvarman, saying the game is more important than individuals.
Paes, who has stayed away from the players’ revolt, doesn’t believe “that the rebellion is important” but agreed that communication is important.
“I personally don’t believe that rebellion is important. But communication should always be open. There is one point which all of us are missing – the game is bigger than all of us, it will always be. End of the day, sport is most important. Whether it’s the Association, or players or you guys (media), essence should not be lost,” Leander said after a training session here for the Davis Cup tie against South Korea at the R.K. Khanna Tennis Stadium.
Somdev and seven top players, including Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Yuki Bhambri, have made themselves unavailable for the Group I Asia/Oceania tie, starting Friday, until their demands are met by the AITA.
Leander said he did talk to Somdev during the Australian Open and also to a few other players trying to make them realise what is good for their career. The 1996 Atlanta Games bronze medallist tried to tell the players that the game and the nation are bigger than everything else.
Asked what he told Somdev, Leander said: “I can’t make public what we discussed… I chatted with him what is good for his own career. I spoke to a couple of other young players also. We are for the flag and the game of tennis. An opportunity to do well for the nation should not take a backseat.”
Leander said that in his 24 years of Davis Cup career, he had missed only three ties.
“Recently against New Zealand in Chandigarh, I did not play as I had a prior agreement, which, I thought, was my duty to fulfill. Twice before this, I missed Davis Cup because of injury,” he said.
The 39-year-old said he had never questioned the decision of the selection committee. Paes’s former partner Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna had defied the selection committee to play together during the 2012 London Games.
“Never in my career had I questioned the decision of the selection committee. So many times in the recent past, my partner was switched. I accepted it, as I had no choice. I have to play for the flag and the people,” said Leander.
Leander said it would a tough tie against the agile Koreans.”The Koreans are always a fighting lot,” he said.
Leander will be playing the doubles with Purav Raja while V.M. Ranjeet and Vijayant Malik will be playing the singles.
Meanwhile, the AITA and the rebel players are likely to reach an agreement soon, and a stronger side would be fielded in the next tie. For non-playing captain S.P. Mishra, it will be the last Davis Cup tie and his replacement is yet to be named.