Bhupathi slams AITA for ban

MUMBAI Tue Sep 18, 2012 5:32pm IST

Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes (R) of India react during their men's doubles final match against Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan of the U.S. at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 29, 2011. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz/Files

Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes (R) of India react during their men's doubles final match against Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan of the U.S. at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 29, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Daniel Munoz/Files

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MUMBAI (Reuters) - Doubles specialist Mahesh Bhupathi, who was handed a two-year ban last week, accused the country's tennis association on Tuesday of carrying out "a personal vendetta" against him.

Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna refused to partner Leander Paes in this year's London Olympics which escalated into an ugly row and forced the All India Tennis Association (AITA) to change their original decision to field Paes and Bhupathi as a pair.

Paes eventually partnered rookie Vishnu Vardhan while India had a second pair in Bhupathi and Bopanna but none returned with a medal from London.

Bhupathi, 38, said he was considering legal options but believes that he has played his last match for India.

"I am not here to list my achievements," Bhupathi read from a prepared statement, adding that 2013 would be his last year on the professional tour.

"Rather, I am here to detail episodes of the personal vendetta the AITA and its dictatorial rule have carried out against me over the last decade.

"It has got to the point where nothing they do or say surprises me anymore. As far as that establishment goes I have become thick skinned."

Paes and Bhupathi joined forces in a formidable partnership in the late 1990s, winning three grand slams, but the ageing duo are not even on speaking terms after a second acrimonious split last year.

Bhupathi blamed AITA president Anil Khanna for the deteriorating relation with his former friend Paes.

"Anil Khanna has enjoyed the rift between Leander and me as no other," Bhupathi said.

"He has re-defined the term divide and rule and at this year's Olympics, used Leander's shoulder to fire the gun against me multiple times.

"Unfortunately the media terms this a Bhupathi-Paes rift and the true underbelly is left unquestioned."

Bhupathi called for the current AITA regime to resign and make way for the next generation to take over the reins of the association.

"At the twilight of my career to face a ban from playing for the country and termed a traitor is unacceptable to me," Bhupathi, who has won 12 grand slam doubles titles, said.

"If I am to stand trial after what I have achieved in my sport over the last 18 years, I am willing to, but I need to know who will ask the establishment questions?"

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by John Mehaffey)

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