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Sania and Ankita to carry India’s podium hopes in Tokyo Olympics

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Express News Service

CHENNAI: One sport that has typically grabbed headlines mostly for the wrong reasons just before recent Olympic Games is tennis.

Various simmering issues have tended to burst thanks to athletes positioning themselves.

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However, this year hasn’t seen any of those issues. It is also an indication of the men’s doubles team are not even sure of making the cut (cut off is June 14 rankings).

That is a wide departure of recent Games. In fact, ever since tennis was reincluded into the Olympics programme in 1988, India have always had at least one men’s doubles pair in the main draw.

As it stands, India’s leading doubles specialists by world ranking — Rohan Bopanna (40) and Divij Sharan (74) — have a combined ranking of 114. Is that good enough for the duo to keep the record going?

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Zeeshan Ali, who will travel with the tennis contingent to Tokyo, says they will have to wait and watch.

“The cut off is next week. But we don’t yet know who are the players (of other teams) that will be going. Only when we know that, can we start doing the mathematics and see.” 

One team that will make the trip is Ankita Raina and Sania Mirza.

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The latter, a former World No 1, has a protected ranking of 9 so they have already qualified. It’s also a pair that Ali is quite familiar with, having worked with them during Fed Cup duty a few years ago.

“I was actually the coach that suggested that Sania (her earlier partner was Prarthana Thombare) partner with Ankita in the Fed Cup in that time,” he told this daily. 

Even though they don’t play as a duo on the circuit, they did train together in Dubai before the Fed Cup in 2021. And their results in the Fed Cup (renamed as the Billie Jean Cup recently) is a big plus.

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They are yet to lose a match, having won five on the bounce.

Even if the quality of doubles players could be a touch superior at the Olympics, Ali expects big things from the pair.

“They are both very good at the net and have shown that they can play together as a pair.” 

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Full story: newindianexpress.com

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