Sania Mirza has lashed out at the All India Tennis Association (AITA) for their supposedly misleading messages and lack of transparency regarding player participation at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
The matter first came to light when Rohan Bopanna took to Twitter to express his frustration on the matter. There had been reports last week that Bopanna had a chance of playing in Tokyo, but the 41-year-old asserted on Monday that he would have never been eligible as per the rules of the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
"ITF has never accepted an entry for Sumit Nagal & myself," Bopanna tweeted. "ITF was clear that no changes were allowed after the nomination deadline (22nd June) unless Injury/illness. AITA has misled the players, government, media and everyone else by stating we still have a chance."
Earlier this week, Sumit Nagal's participation in the men's singles category was confirmed due to a slew of withdrawals from the men's draw. And since a qualified singles player is entitled to travel with a doubles partner, the AITA promptly withdrew Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan's nomination for men's doubles in favor of nominating Nagal and Bopanna.
The qualification of Sharan and Bopanna as a doubles team was always doubtful because of their ranking. But the prevailing thought was that Bopanna - who many consider a better medal prospect than Sharan - could theoretically have traveled as Nagal's companion irrespective of his ranking.
As things stand, however, Bopanna is not traveling to Tokyo, since the deadline for nominating players was supposedly over well before Nagal's qualification. India's hopes at the Tokyo Olympics will, therefore, rest solely in the hands of Nagal, Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina.
Shortly after Bopanna's tweet, Sania responded with a scathing message of her own. The doubles star labeled AITA's reported misdirection "ridiculous and shameful", and lamented that India had lost a chance of winning a medal in mixed doubles.
"Whaaattt???If this is true then it's absolutely ridiculous and shameful," Sania Mirza tweeted. "By this it also means that we have sacrificed a very good shot at a medal in the mixed doubles if you and I would have played as planned. We were both told that you and Sumit's names hav been given."
"If you are so good why are you depending on people's withdrawal?" - AITA Secretary General responds to Rohan Bopanna's claims
Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna would have paired up in mixed doubles if the latter were to take part in the Olympics. And many believe the duo would have had a great chance to win India's first medal in tennis since the 1996 Olympics.
Bopanna and Sania came agonizingly close to winning a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, losing in the semifinals to Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram of the USA. They then succumbed to Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic in the bronze medal playoff match.
Shortly after Bopanna and Sania's tweets, the Secretary General of the AITA Anil Dhupar responded by discrediting Bopanna's claims.
"We have taken extraordinary efforts to ensure that our men’s doubles entry are done," Dhupar told ANI. "Unfortunately Divij and Rohan’s entries were not accepted and were still on the waiting list, then all of a sudden Sumit got an entry for singles. We got in touch with Sumit on whether or not to go. And by the time he confirmed we had already confirmed to ITF that he will be playing."
Dhupar went on to claim that the ITF offiices were closed on the weekend, which is supposedly why they couldn't file Bopanna's nomination before the 16 July finalization of the Olympics entry list. Dhupar further suggested that Bopanna should have qualified for the Tokyo Games on his own merit instead of hoping for withdrawals.
"All formalities started on June 17 and we also wrote taking a chance that if Sumit being singles player is also entitled to have a doubles partner," Dhupar said. "So that's why we changed the nomination from Rohan-Divij to to Rohan and Sumit for the Tokyo Olympics. All offices were closed on Saturday and Sunday, ITF is closed. I don't know why he is saying all this. If you are so good why are you depending on people's withdrawal? You are a world-class player you should enter Olympics on your own, why are you depending on withdrawal."