London 2012: India's Tennis Prospects for the Olympics [Review]

   on April 22 2012 11:49 PM
London 2012: India's Tennis Prospects for the Olympics [Review]

They are the prime medal prospects for India in London. But forget about the medal, now their chance to have a place in the summer Olympics is in complete disarray.

With the June 11 deadline for naming the doubles pairings for the Olympics fast approaching, it is not sure whether Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza will be able to take the London flight this July.

For Sania, it is sheer bad luck, but for the rest of the two, it is lack of consistency, battle of ego and internal politics.

Paes and Bhupathi began their clay season last week at Monte Carlo Masters.

Unseeded Serb-Swiss combination of Viktor Troicki and Stanislas Wawrinka stunned the sixth seeded Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna in the second round on Wednesday.

It took just 56 minutes for the hot favourite Indian pair to go down in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.

Rated at number six in the ATP World Doubles Rankings, the Indian duo utterly failed to put up a fight.

Paes, pairing with Radek Stepanek won their first match 6-3, 6-3 against Juan Sebastian Cabal and Eduardo Schwank.

But the fifth seed pair lost to top seed Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 6-2, 6-0.

Paes, who became only the 24th player in the ATP tour history to win 50 doubles titles after he and his Czech partner Stepanek clinched theMiami Masters last month, is now at No. 7 in the doubles ranking.

Though Bopanna just managed to be in the top 10, Bhupathi's ranking is 15, who also has 50 doubles title under his belt.

Still the best pair by far in India, both Paes and Bhupathi have to be in top 10 to qualify for the Olympics.

But Bupathi made it very clear that the team of Bopanna and himself would be best suited to represent India at the mega-event. 

"The logical thing would be to play with Rohan, my regular partner, instead of pairing up with Leander (Paes) just for the Olympics. To try and defeat a strong field at the Olympics with just a few weeks practice together is pretty much hoping for a miracle," said Bhupathi. 

The duo of Paes and Bhupathi has represented India at every Olympics since 1996 with their best result coming at Athens in 2004, when they lost the bronze-medal playoff to Croats Mario Ancic and Ivan Lubicic.

For Sania Mirza, while playing her season-opening clay tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, she will no longer have the familiar face of Russia's Elena Vesnina by her side, who she has partnered for the last 15 months.

As per the advice by her Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev, Vesnina will be partnering a fellow Russian in order to improve their chances of a medal at the Olympics, which is just three months away.

With her new partner Flavia Pennetta, with whom she will play in Stuttgart, Mirza's challenge will lie in maintaining her top-10 position in the individual doubles rankings ahead of the June 11 deadline for Olympics nominations.

Currently she is at No. 8 in WTA Tour ranking, improved by one rung.

After Stuttgart, Mirza plans to play women's doubles with Australia's Anastasia Rodionova in Estoril and at Madrid Masters.

Though at Pattaya Open, partnering with Rodionova, this year Mirza became champion, she will have to defend points at Madrid as she had reached the quarterfinals last year.

At the French Open, Mirza has 1400 points to defend as she had reached the final last year.

If she fails to maintain her top-10 doubles ranking, Mirza's hope to make it to the Olympics is a wild card in singles.

Wild cards are to be issued by the International Tennis Federation only by the end of June.