In a massive blow to the Indian contingent and thousands of Indian fans, legendary Leander Paes announced his withdrawal from the soon-to-start Asian Games in Indonesia’s Jakarta and Palembang. Before announcing his pull-out from the sporting event, the 45-year-old tennis star revealed that it is due to All India Tennis Association’s (AITA) reluctance to provide a doubles specialist in the tennis team that he is withdrawing his contention.
In a statement released by him, Leander Paes said, “It is with a heavy heart that I have to say that I will not be playing the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia. Despite my repeated requests, from so many weeks in advance, it is sad that we have not been able to put a doubles specialist in the team for credible second doubles pairing for the Asian Games.”
The absence of Leander Paes will hit the Indian tennis team at the Asian Games 2018 too hard. The team is already missing talismanic Sania Mirza and Yuki Bhambri, and Paes’ withdrawal significantly weakens India’s chances at securing any medal in the sport. In men’s category, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ramkumar Ramanathan will be contesting for singles titles while Rohan Bopanna/Divij Sharan and Leander Paes/Sumit Nagpal were drawn together to play as doubles.
The tennis team captain and coach Zeeshan Ali, who arrived in Jakarta along with rest of the team for Asian Games, was himself perplexed about Leander Paes’ situation. When asked about whether the iconic tennis star will feature in the tournament, Ali said that he has no idea of Paes’ arrival.
“Only Paes can tell you when he is coming. The last time I spoke to him he said he would play in Cincinnati and then come to Palembang. But he is not playing there also,” added a clueless Zeeshan Ali.
The 18th edition of the Asian Games is to start from August 18 and will end on September 2. There are at least 312 men and 258 women athletes from India who will be participating in the sporting extravaganza.