Mahesh Bhupathi slams association chief Anil Khanna, says he does not see the hand of Leander Paes in his ban.
Did the AITA speak to you before announcing the ban?
No, they didn’t. A journalist called me for a reaction and that’s when I got to know that the association had sent out a press release announcing the ban.
How do you take them on now?
As far as the ban goes, our lawyers are exploring the possibilities. So I don’t want to talk much about it. It’s a sensitive issue.
What have they banned you for?
You should ask them that! In fact, I have received many e-mails and text messages from my friends and well-wishers today. Trust me, I have never received these many on the eve of a Grand Slam final. And quite a few people have told me that the AITA can’t ban us.
Do you think players must have a say in selection matters?
Yes, they should. Even the AITA sent us an email with the selectors’ phone numbers. Rohan Bopanna and I spoke to each of them individually. But in the end, they took a decision without consulting us.
What does Khanna have against you?
I don’t know. I think he doesn’t like the fact that I do more for tennis in the country than him or his association. Look at the past. Vijay Amritraj has not benefited from AITA, Leander and Ramesh Krishnan also struggled in 1993 and now it’s my turn. Show me one player they have produced.
Does Paes have anything to do with AITA’s decision?
No, Leander is not to blame.
You think rebellion is the only way out?
I don’t know. But I think these guys should just resign.
Do you think you can play for India again?
Two years is a long time. And in any case, the next season will be my last on Tour. I am getting old, that’s why!
What are the wrongs committed by Khanna and his team?
Khanna is responsible for the disaster that is Indian tennis. They have done nothing for the sport in the country.
Why don’t you join AITA? Why not contest elections?
I am still a player now. We’ll see that later. But let’s see if they hold elections. They must resign first, though. Once I told Khanna to put me on his advisory board,. He didn’t. He has people who know nothing about the sport.
Why have you and Bopanna split?
That’s because I am retiring next year. Plus, he wants to play on the backhand side of the court. He has approached Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi. Let’s see.
Are you going through this because of your relation with Paes?
The main reason for this fiasco is that AITA did not communicate to its players the criteria for selection. In March, Rohan and I told Khanna why we had decided to pair up. However, two weeks before the deadline, we were denied the chance to play together...Every morning I get an email saying you are allowed a hearing. They banned us and then they realised they don’t have a code of conduct. So now they are giving us a hearing. AITA secretary Bharat Oza said Somdev Devvarman skipped the Davis Cup, but played the US Open for monetary reasons. How can he talk rubbish about our No 1 singles player? He is either misinformed or delusional.