New Delhi: The French Open mixed doubles title may not ensure Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza an automatic ticket to the 2012 London Olympics. They have some more hurdles to cross.
Sania’s second Grand Slam title with Bhupathi and the first at the French Open has made sure the pair is India’s best bet at the Games, though Leander Paes is still the front-runner to team up with her in London.
Saina getting to London depends on her remaining in the top 10- ranked doubles players. She is precariously perched at No.10 and if she drops down the charts, she has to get a wild card to play in the Olympics.
If Sania fails to make the cut, the All India Tennis Association (AITA), hopes that she will get a wild card before the selectors sit down to decide on the pairing at their June 15 meeting. Paraguay’s Veronica Cepede Royg and Liechenstein’s Stephanie Vogt have been offered two of the four wild cards.
AITA secretary general Anil Khanna is in Paris and is expected to meet International Tennis Federation (ITF) officials and make efforts to secure Sania a wild card as she is unlikely to retain her No.10 ranking after her first-round defeat in the women’s doubles in Paris.
Before leaving for Paris, Khanna said he was confident that Sania would get one of the remaining wild cards in view of her standing in the game. Her French Open success added to her stature.
S.P. Misra, a selector and Davis Cup captain, said as of now, the Paes-Sania pairing may get the nod. “Winning the French Open title doesn’t mean that Sania and Bhupathi will automatically pair up for the Olympics. If Sania and Bhupathi have to be the combination for London then they should be among the top 10 in the doubles rankings when the selectors meet on June 15. Bhupathi (World No.13), Rohan Bopanna (12)may go down further after their early exit from Paris. Paes (7) may still stay below 10 to make it to London and in that case he is likely be paired with Sania,” said Misra.
Misra, however, said that if Sania gets a wild card she can opt for a partner of her choice, but the selectors will take the final call. Jaideep Mukherjea, Rohit Rajpal, Zeeshan Ali and Sai Jayalakshmi are the other selectors. “The AITA is doing its best to get a wild card for Sania. If Sania gets a wild card, she can opt for a partner but the selection committee will decide the final combination,” he added.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has set June 11 as the cut-off date for direct qualification on the basis of the rankings after the French Open.
The AITA will announce the team June 15 as ITF has set June 21 as the deadline to confirm the entry of eligible players for the Games.
After the mixed doubles victory Thursday, Sania said the decision on the pairing was not in their (Sania and Mahesh’s) control. “Olympics is something we have all dreamt about as athletes and we want to win a medal there, but a lot of things are not in our control,” said Sania.
Sania said if she and Mahesh were fielded at the London Games, they would give their best to give India its second Olympic tennis medal. Paes had given the country its first Olympic tennis medal, a singles bronze, at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
“If we do get that opportunity we are going to give whatever we have to get that medal,” said Sania.