Bopanna : The only way to go to Olympics is for Sania and me to play together

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Bopanna : The only way to go to Olympics is for Sania and me to play together

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Amlan Majumdar

06/03/2016

Rohan Bopanna sees pairing up with Sania Mirza as the only option available for India in the mixed doubles event at the Rio Olympics. India’s number one men’s doubles player has also said that he will have to pair up with 51st ranked Leander Paes if he does not make it to the top 10 rankings.

After his exit from the quarter-finals of the French Open, Rohan Bopanna spoke to the Indian Express about India’s options in men's and mixed doubles at the Olympics. According to him, his pairing with Sania Mirza would be the only option available in the mixed doubles event. "The only way for us to get in the cut is for Sania and me to play together. The cut-off for the combined ranking might be around 35-45. Unfortunately, there is nobody else who can make it in that, so if we go according to the rankings, then it's the only option."

And in terms of men’s doubles, Bopanna will have to wait for the final ranking to be published on June 6. "If I don't make it (to Top 10), then I will have to pair up with Leander (Paes)," said the current world number 11. "If I'm in the Top 10, then I can pick my partner," Bopanna told the Indian Express. If the Bangalorean does make it, there is a chance that veteran Leander Paes might miss out on a record seventh Olympics.

Bopanna has also insisted that he is yet to think about partner for men’s doubles in Rio. “It's been just a day since I finished (at the French Open). So I haven't given it a thought yet. I'm just waiting to see where I stand, if it's in the top 10 or not. Then it'll be easier for me to make that decision. It's just a matter of a few days," Bopanna told the Indian Express.

The French Open is the last tournament before the rankings, which will be published on June 6, go into consideration for Olympic qualification. Bopanna has exited at the quarter-final stage and his chances of making it to the top 10 rests on world no.9 Ivan Dodig’s title defence. If he fails to do so, Bopanna will leapfrog Bruno Soares and Dodig to the ninth spot.

According to the qualification criteria, a player in the top 10 gets direct entry and the right to choose any player from their own country to pair up. Players outside the top 10 will be granted qualification based on their combined world rankings if it fits within the total 24 slots available. "If Rohan is in the top 10, then he picks whoever he wants. If he isn't, then he will have to pair up with Leander because only their doubles combined rankings will have a chance of putting out a men's team," stated national selector and Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali. Mirza, meanwhile, has already qualified for the women's doubles.

According to Bopanna, he has not played enough with Paes to gauge their partnership. "Unfortunately, we haven't really played much together. We've just played three-four matches. It's tough to really tell in that much what you complement each other with as a team. We just played once in Bangalore, then Delhi. One in Uzbekistan and one in Kazakhstan. So not much team time together. And then we don't get into any of the Masters series together because there is nobody with a higher rank for me to get in with," he explained.

The current rankings also disallow the pair from competing in tournaments together.  "We won't get into any of the main tournaments. Even if I want to, the rankings are not high enough to get us into the tournament. For example, before Rio, there is a tournament in Toronto where the cutoff for the main draw is about 45-50 on the combined rankings. So I won't get into a tournament like that."

World number one in women’s doubles Sania Mirza will have a chance to select a partner for mixed doubles if there is a men’s team present in Rio. However, the event's qualification will again be based on combined rankings. "There are only 16 mixed doubles teams. So combined ranks of players will be taken into account and only the best 16 combinations will get in," explains SP Misra, executive member of the All India Tennis Association (AITA).

Sania’s number one position and Bopanna’s number 11 position hence present the best chance of sending a mixed doubles team to Rio.  “Mixed doubles will be the hardest event for sure. Obviously, Sania and I are going to Rio, so we’ll definitely try to play before if we make it,” Bopanna told the Indian Express.

(Also, read about how Sania Mirza and Leander Paes will face each other in the final mixed doubles event at French Open)

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