BANGALORE: Amid the washing of dirty linen, ego battles and emotional outbursts over which tennis players should represent India in the men’s doubles at the London Olympics, what’s being forgotten is that medals in two disciplines, not one, are at stake – the men’s doubles and the mixed doubles.
With Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza having won this year’s French Open title together, the mixed doubles pair seems to be a better bet for a medal. However, here comes the twist.
The ITF guidelines for Olympic eligibility for the mixed doubles (draw of 16) states that ‘each pair must already be playing in the singles and/or doubles events’.
This means that India’s participation in the mixed doubles is subject to the 25-year-old Sania getting a wildcard entry in either the singles or the women’s doubles. If Sania gets lucky, Bhupathi should also be playing men’s doubles in the Olympics to be eligible to pair with her.
Sania, whose doubles world ranking of No. 12 falls just outside the top 10 which would have gained the Hyderabadi an automatic berth into the women’s doubles, will now have to wait until June 28 to hear from the International Tennis Federation of her wildcard chances in either singles or doubles (with Chennai veteran Rushmi Chakravarthi).
As for Bhupathi, his position in the men’s doubles is uncertain, given the stand-off between the players and All India Tennis Association. One would assume then that AITA would be pressed to pick Bhupathi in its first or second – if it decides to send one – doubles team.
Sania and Bhupathi’s combined ranking of 26 falls just short of a direct entry should all the top players compete in the mixed event. However, with Djokovic and Nadal unlikely to play the combined event and given that India has the option of waiting until the last minute to send in their entries, Bhupathi and Sania may just squeeze through.