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As Olympics Qualifying Row Blows Up, Indian Star Rohan Bopanna Accuses Tennis Association of Lying

Rohan Bopanna
© Photo : Government of India

A massive controversy has hit Indian tennis just three days ahead of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, with the country's top-ranked doubles player Rohan Bopanna accusing the All India Tennis Association of misleading the players. Female superstar Sania Mirza has also slammed AITA, saying India missed out on an opportunity to win a medal.

The war of words between doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna and AITA escalated on Tuesday after the tennis star released an audio tape, featuring an alleged conversation between him and AITA's Honourary Secretary General Anil Dhupar on Twitter.

In the tweet, Bopanna also accused Anil Dhupar of lying about the Olympics qualification process, wherein he was set to compete in Tokyo alongside Sumit Nagal in the men's doubles category.

Bopanna's continuing tirade against the governing body of the sport in India came a day after the controversy first surfaced on Monday, when he said in a Twitter post that the International Tennis Federation (ITF) had never accepted the entry request filed by him and Sumit Nagal as a doubles pair.

According to him, it was contrary to AITA's position as the tennis body had paired him with Nagal in the men's doubles after withdrawing Divij Sharan's name from the competition.

Initially, AITA had paired Bopanna with Sharan for the men's doubles event, but Bopanna and Sharan had failed to directly qualify due to their low ranking. Bopanna and Sharan were ranked a combined 113, considered relatively low for both the ATP and the Olympics doubles competition.  

However, once Nagal qualified for the men's singles last week after several big names, including former World No. 1 Roger Federer, 13-time Roland Garros winner Rafael Nadal and reigning US Open Dominic Thiem pulled out, AITA decided to pair Bopanna with Nagal as the ITF was giving priority to singles players in the doubles draw.

India's most popular tennis player Sania Mirza joined Bopanna in blasting AITA for the goof-up, which she said was a major loss for the nation as a genuine shot at a medal in the mixed doubles had been compromised due to the mistake made by the organisation.

​Sania's tweet indicated that she would have paired with Bopanna in the mixed doubles, if he had made the cut for the Games.

Unlike Bopanna, Sania would still feature in the Games in the women's doubles alongside Ankita Raina.

It wasn't just Sania who backed Bopanna, a large number of social media users also came out in his support once the spat began trending on Twitter.

​But the allegations were vehemently denied by AITA, with Secretary General Anil Dhupar releasing a statement on the matter late on Monday night.

Dhupar hit back at both Bopanna and Sania, saying that qualification for the Olympics should be achieved by the players with the help of their own performances, which Bopanna never achieved.

He claimed that Bopanna left his qualification in the hands of other players as he was hoping to make it to the Olympics with the help of player withdrawals.

"All formalities started on 17 June and we also wrote, taking a chance that if Sumit being single's player is also entitled to have a doubles partner. So that's why we changed the nomination from Rohan-Divij to Rohan and Sumit for the Tokyo Olympics," Dhupar told Indian media on Monday.

"All offices were closed on Saturday and Sunday, ITF is closed. I don't know why he is saying all this. If you are so good, why are you depending on people's withdrawal? You are a world-class player, you should enter the Olympics on your own, why are you depending on withdrawal."

"I don't understand..and where is the problem from the federation. AITA has done its very best to ensure that Rohan and doubles players go to the Olympics so that we also get a chance to play mixed doubles. Entry into the Olympics is not in the hands of the federation. There is law and provisions for that," he added.

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