The entry for the Rio Olympics Indian doubles pairing has raked up unnecessary speculation after the French Open. Given that Leander Paes won his tenth mixed doubles title, his case for being paired with Sania Mirza for Rio has gained a lot of traction among fans.
Even this writer in his previous column on the issue was erroneous in alluding that performances post the June 6 ranking deadline may influence things.
Let me clarify just what the rules state: The International Tennis Federation (ITF) will select mixed doubles teams taking into account the recognised singles and doubles rankings of June 6, 2016. That in turn clearly implies that only a pairing of Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza is going to be eligible for the cutoff.
The draw of 16 has 12 direct entries and their combined ranking of 11 (Mirza is world no 1, while Bopanna is 10) makes them a shoo-in for the Rio draw.
However, with Paes ranked at 46, it is most unlikely that the pairing of Mirza and Paes will make it into the Rio draw.
The ITF is set to send national associations the list of pairs eligible for the mixed draw on June 9. Subsequent to that, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) will announce the Indian tennis team for the Olympics.
This time around, the selectors are pretty clear that Mirza will get to play with a partner of her choice. As such, the pairing of Mirza and Bopanna is set to be announced.
Funnily enough though, the two have not combined yet to play in the Australian or the French Open. A little birdie tells me that they did not want to risk losing and thus jeopardise their Olympic pairing given that Paes can never be counted out in mixed — no matter what kind of indifferent form he may be showing otherwise.
It would have been difficult to get the backing of the selectors if Paes kept winning while Mirza-Bopanna faltered early. It is also said that Mirza-Bopanna are likely to come together for Wimbledon, though that remains to be seen.
The mixed is our best chance for a tennis medal at the Olympics. I would like to put my money even on the combo of Paes and Bopanna except that they have shown indifferent form the four times they have partnered together. So, Bopanna heads into the Olympics with a good shot at two potential medals.
It will be interesting to figure just how he ramps up his game for the most exacting tournament of his life.
To put an end to further speculation, the AITA is set to send the pairing of Paes-Bopanna for the men’s doubles and Bopanna-Mirza for mixed.