The Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) has asked the All India Tennis Association (AITA) to explain the split of Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan as the duo runs the risk of missing out on funding. Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ankita Raina have also not been a part of the scheme following Asiad 2018.
Currently, the TOPS funding has as many as 71 athletes with only two tennis players, Bopanna and Sharan, being on the list. However, with the duo splitting following a run of bad results that saw them exiting from the first round four times, AITA needs to give a justification.
AITA has instead forwarded the need for justification to Bopanna and so far hasn’t pushed for the re-inclusion of the country’s top tennis stars stating that the federation cannot push the government for it. With these two removed from the list, there will be no tennis player left in the TOPS list.
"The names are already with the government. The government has not called us for any discussion after the Asian Games and we can't force the government to include anyone in TOPS," said AITA secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee, reported PTI.
Among the ace players include Prajnesh, Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Ankita, Karman Kaur Thandi and Prarthana Thombare, who had all figured in the list before the 2018 Asian Games. However, following a dismal performance in Jakarta only Bopanna and Sharan were kept on the list.
"We had given names of all our top players but they have not asked for any discussion after the Asian Games. Even if AITA gives names, the TOPS committee will only go by the assessment of its consultants when it reviews the list," added Chatterjee.
However, TOPS CEO, commander Rajesh Rajagopalan, has said that NSFs can put forward names on their own, which would be up for discussion. In fact, last year, AITA had convinced the TOPS committee to include Ankita after she was ignored by national observer Somdev Devvarman.
"TOPS selects athletes who have the potential to achieve a podium finish at Olympics. Secondly, not only the Committee but the Federations also can propose (names) on their own, which would then be analysed for performance and presented to the committee," said Rajagopalan.
Talking about government seeking an explanation on Bopanna-Sharan split, possibly to reconsider TOPS funding to them, Chatterjee said they have asked Bopanna to respond.
Bopanna (ranked 40) and Sharan (ranked 41) had begun their partnership with a bang as they won the season-opening Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune. However, consecutive poor results saw the duo split up as their combined ranking of 81 would make it very difficult for them to enter big tournaments.
Bopanna has partnered with Briton world number 28 Dominic Inglot, while Sharan has teamed up with world number 57 Marcelo Demoliner from Brazil. While both Bopanna and Sharan are yet to comment, Chatterjee is hoping that the duo come together ahead of Tokyo Games next year.
"We will forward to the government whatever Rohan will write to us. It's a professional decision by the players and we don't interfere in that. Maybe Rohan thinks that his ranking can get better if he plays with some other player. But they may play together again before the Tokyo Games and that should be good enough," said Chatterjee.
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