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Sania Mirza to be conferred with Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award

Sania Mirza's rise to the world No 1 in women's doubles player ranking and victories at the Asian Games and US Open in 2014 had made her the front-runner for India's highest sporting honour.

Sania Mirza India Martina Hingis Tennis
Sania Mirza won the Wimbledon doubles championship partnering Martina Hingis

Indian tennis star Sania Mirza will be conferred with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, Deccan Chronicle reports. Sania’s name has reportedly been chosen for India’s top-most sporting honour ahead of squash star Deepika Pallikal and discus thrower Vikas Gowda.

Other candidates for this year’s Khel Ratna included Tintu Luka (800m), Devendra Jhajhariya (paralympic javelin), Sardar Singh (hockey) and Abhishek Verma (archery). The Awards Committee is headed by former cricketer Kapil Dev and former billiards player Michael Ferreira, and although an official confirmation on the matter is still pending, most reports are suggesting that Sania is a shoo-in for the award. 

"It is a great honour to be nominated for the Khel Ratna award. This is surely going to inspire her to earn more laurels for the country," Sania’s father Imran Mirza was quoted saying after she was nominated for the award.

If the reports are indeed true, it will cap off what has been a brilliant year so far for India’s tennis queen. The 28-year-old, who has already been conferred with the Arjuna award in 2004 and the Padma Shri in 2006, has been in stunning form of late.

Since opting to partner Swiss former World No. 1 Martina Hingis, Sania has climbed to the top of the WTA doubles ranking. The crowning glory came with the pair’s triumph at Wimbledon in June. 

That victory, however, could not be considered as it came after the cut-off date for performances to be considered for the award. But in the relevant period Sania won the mixed doubles gold with Saketh Myneni and bronze in women’s doubles with Prarthana Thombare at the Incheon Asian Games. She also won the US Open mixed doubles title with Bruno Soares in 2014.

After her string of impressive performances, Sania was considered a front-runner for the award, especially considering India’s tennis association went out of their way to nominate her under a special clause in spite of missing the deadline for submission by two months. 

"We had got a late recommendation from AITA, but the Minister accepted that and recommended the same to the Awards Committee," Sports secretary Ajit Sharan said. “But the final decision to give the honour rests with the Awards Committee," he clarified.

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