“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself- the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us.” – Jesse Owens.
Tennis is a gentleman’s game. Ramanathan Krishnan, Premjit Lal, Jaideep Mukherjee and Vijay Amritraj were great men- on court and off it. They couldn’t win the grand slams, but they won admiration for their sportsmanship.
Leander Paes has won many crowns, but hardly any respect of his team mates. In 2008 four Davis Cup players (including Bopanna) refused to carry on if Paes remained the captain. Their main complaint was that he played to get all the credit for himself and did not show the team spirit expected of a captain. Is this what went wrong in Olympics as well? Following Mahesh Bhupathi’s refusal to partner Paes in London, the Tennis Association tried to move Vishnu Vardhan as Paes’ partner. Paes became sniffy of the idea because Vardhan was ranked 206. Paes would have forgotten, that when he was a low-ranked junior, Ramesh Krishnan had welcomed him as a partner and encouraged him.
While most players were busy showing their melodramatic skills, the only player to reestablish sportsmanship back in the game was Sania Mirza. When Paes’ father dramatized the whole event further by giving a public statement that Sania must give a written undertaking to partner Leander in mixed doubles at the Olympics if Leander is to partner the low-ranked Vishnu Vardhan in the men’s doubles, Sania strongly criticized the whole male chauvinist drama calling it a blatant humiliation of Indian womanhood. But she had the dignity to reply further that she was ready to partner Paes in the larger interests of the country. She recalled her winning a silver for India in the 2010 Asian Games in partnership with Vishnu Vardhan. She told Leander that Vishnu would do much better if he were teamed up with someone as good as himself. I hope the high ranked players of India borrow some dignity and grace from this lady.