The relationship between Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi has always been a tumultuous one. However, this time the duo have gone too far with Leander Paes opening accusing Bhupathi of dropping him for personal reasons and the latter releasing private Whatsapp messages between the two to the media.
Despite being the greatest all-Indian tennis team in history winning three Grand Slams together, "the Indian Express", as they were called, always shared a strained relationship. From Paes questioning Bhupathi's commitment to his country to Bhupathi refusing to team up with Paes in the Olympics, there have been many flashpoints.
So when Paes accused the non-playing captain Bhupathi of not selecting him for the Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan based on his personal reasons, Bhupathi has claimed that he would issue a response after winning the tie. However, no one, even their wildest dreams would have predicted what was to follow. Bhupati released screenshots of their Whatsapp conversations to the media to prove that he had not promised Paes a starting role in the team.
In an emotional yet scathing Facebook post, Bhupathi revealed Paes’ misgivings throughout his career and said that he never treated other players with respect. Bhupathi said the reason he was friends with Bopanna, Sania, Saketh, Somdev, Purav because they shared mutual respect, but he did not get any from Paes.
Through the twenty years of my career, I always believed facts will always surface and unless I was pushed into a deep hole I never responded or felt the need to because regardless of what was said the media would play is up as a personal feud. Let me the first to say, there was never a personal Feud, when I came on the Davis cup scene in 1994 I was a Leander fan and was excited to see him play Wayne Ferreira who was 10 in the world ....he demolished Ferreira in straight sets. I become more than a fan, besides the tennis, he had the outlandish charm with the tennis hierarchy and media. However things changed quickly, when both our captain sir Jaideep Mukerjea and coach Enrico Piperno were strong armed out of the team end of 1999 because he had heard a rumour of them being upset he didn't come for the tie against Italy but was fully fit to play chennai open the following week, that should have been the first red flag. He had his own definition or lack of for the word "Respect" and it quickly become apparent there was only one train on the tracks, either you get on or stay home, I could probably write a book on all the instances over the years but I am trying to keep this short. I always try and treat people how I like to be treated and that's the basic way you treat colleagues. If I were to forget for five minutes, all the times he took his spot on the team for granted and showed up late for Davis cup or the Olympics, or not comply with team requests on uniform or outfit, or blatantly tell the captain or management that things have to fall in place the way he needs them to, his leaving Bangalore on Saturday in the middle of our tie was the final nail in the coffin.
But Bhupathi wasn't done yet. In a final warning to Paes, Bhupathi also suggested that Paes should not come in his way if he did not like his ideas, as he had the backing of the AITA.
I enforced a gag order on the team so there would be none (drama), but he didn't adhere to that either. I have been given the full support now of the federation, and the selection committee so now there is a New Train on the tracks, it's to get India back to the World group, it's full of energy, youth, positivity, hard work, and dreams.. those who don't like it should stay out of the way because we don't plan to stop till we get there!!!
If Bhupathi thought that this would put the matter to rest, he was grossly mistaken. Leander Paes responded to Bhupathi’s claims with a Facebook post of his own in which that had a three-point agenda wherein Paes claimed that the basic criteria, form, was not followed at the time of selection. He also claimed to be unaware of his exclusion from the side until he arrived in Bangalore for the tie against Uzbekistan and said that Bhupathi’s revelation of their private chat is a conduct that was unbecoming of a Davis Cup captain. Finally, he urged the fans to go by what history suggests and not by Bhupathi’s claims while deciding whom to side within the row.
Paes is notoriously known for having a number of issues off the court with Bhupathi and a number of other players as well. But to criticize the team captain's decision on the eve of a big Davis Cup game is something that was not expected even from him. Having said that to release private conversations to the press is possibly the worst part of this feud. This has gone on for far too long and it is high time that the AITA step in and put an end to this entire fiasco.