WIMBLEDON, England // Leander Paes insists the "disheartening" selection row engulfing India's tennis team for the London Games has not dampened his enthusiasm about appearing in his sixth Olympics.
Paes, 39, will play mixed doubles with India's top women's player, Sania Mirza, who said she was being used as "bait" to pacify Paes after he was asked to be paired with little-known Vishnu Vardhan in the men's doubles.
Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna will be India's other pairing in the men's doubles, after they each refused to partner with Paes in London because they have been playing together on the ATP circuit.
"I am here to play sport and not politics," Paes said after winning his first-round match in the men's doubles at Wimbledon with regular Czech partner Radek Stepanek on Thursday.
"Unfortunately, I see the games being played within games, and as much as that is very disheartening, I am looking forward to playing my sixth Olympics for my country as I have played for 22 years for the people and the flag." Before his partnership with Mirza was confirmed, Paes had threatened to withdraw himself from contention following the decision to pair him with Vardhan.
"I am looking forward to representing my country with the teams that the All India Tennis Association have selected," Paes said.
Mirza won this year's French Open with Bhupathi and said in a statement that she was disillusioned after being "put up as bait to try and pacify one of the disgruntled stalwarts of Indian tennis," in a direct reference to Paes.
Paes refused to comment on either Mirza's statement or whether their relationship had been tarnished.
"Every Olympics has some nonsense coming in with it," Paes said. "I know how much hard work goes into what I do. (Either) people choose to respect it, which I'm very lucky that India does, (or) people choose to disrespect. That's their problem not mine."
A seven-time Grand Slam winner in doubles, Paes also won a bronze medal in singles in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
India is sending their largest ever tennis contingent to the Olympics with seven players. Apart from the above pairs, Mirza and Rushmi Chakravarthi will play in women's doubles, while Somdev Devvarman will play in men's singles after receiving a wild card.
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