Tokyo Olympics 2020: What are India's medal chances in tennis?
India has been part of the tennis discipline at the Olympics since 1924. A team of six members would represent India in all the events, i.e. singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. It was only in 1996 that India won its first medal in tennis at the Olympics. This bronze medal from the Olympics medal tally was won by Leander Paes in the men's singles event. Ever since, no one has been able to win a medal. Others have come extremely close, but have not been able to seal the deal.
One of the reasons India hasn't be successful in securing another medal at the Olympics is because the players have had a few ego tussles. Partnerships were formed and broken which caused a bit of disruption. Players even took to media to express their opinions of their fellow players. The environment created was quite a distasteful one. This was apparent during the London and Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Since Paes's medal, a few players have come quite close to winning another medal in tennis for India. Paes himself along with partner Mahesh Bhupathi lost in the semi-finals of 2004, Athens Olympics. Last Olympics Sania Mirza along with partner Rohan Bopanna did quite well. Although they lost in the match for 3rd position, they put up quite a show.
What are India's chances in Tokyo Olympics?
As far the singles event is concerned, India lacks a real contender. Sumit Nagal is very determined to qualify for the Olympics, but as of today, his chances don't seem very high. Currently, his ranking is 130 according to the ATP. He mentioned to a reported that "Like I said, first it is the top 100 then look for the top 80 and look for the Olympics spot. I think it is around 80-85 to make it to the Olympics."
But in the singles event, it is only the top 56 of the world that qualify. Each country gets a maximum of 4 entries.
Along with Nagal, Prajnesh Gunneswaran is the other top singles player in India. He too doesn't have a high enough ranking to qualify for the Olympics.
As for the doubles, the draw is of 32 entries. Only the top 10 combinations of the world get an entry. After that, the next 14 entries will be of pairs of whose combined ranking is the highest. The remaining entries will be given to the singles players who aspire to play doubles. The criteria for mixed is different. All the teams playing mixed have to be either participating in the singles or doubles events. One slot for the host nation combined with 15 slots of the top combinations gets an entry.
In doubles, the only hope is Rohan Bopanna as he is the highest-ranked player in India. It will be quite interesting to know who he chooses to partner up with this time. He has recently partnered with Divij Sharan during the ATP tournaments. Divij's ranking is at the 53rd spot whereas Rohan's is at the 41st spot. Divij has scope for improving his ranking as 8th June is the cut-off for qualification. Leander Paes' ranking is quite far off. He's at 117 as of now. To get an entry he will have to get a partner like Rohan or even Divij for that matter. Their combined ranking might just be good enough for them to qualify.
For mixed doubles, Sania Mirza is India's best hope for India's Olympics 2020 medal tally. Even though she had taken a break to look after her newborn, she's back on the court as if she had never left. She even won the Hobart International tournament after her return. She is currently ranked 9th in the world. With a high ranking like this, she should easily qualify for the women's doubles event. She can choose whoever she wants to, to partner up with at the Olympics.
There is a lot of speculation whether Mirza will partner with Bopanna for the mixed event, and if their combined ranking is even good enough to break into the top 16. Mixed doubles seems to be the discipline in which India has a fighting chance if the draw is a bit favourable and the players play their best.
Published 14 Feb 2020, 12:20 IST