Tokyo Games: Bopanna, Sharan miss cut for men's doubles event
In a setback to India's medal chances in the tennis event of Tokyo Olympics, Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan have missed the cut for men's doubles, which rules out India's presence in the mixed team competition, its best chance for a podium finish. It was expected that with a 113 low combined ranking, Bopanna (38) and Sharan's (75) entry would depend on large-scale withdrawals.
"The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has confirmed that Bopanna and Sharan could not be entered as a team in the men's doubles team. However, things might change till July 16 (if there are more withdrawals)," an AITA source told PTI.
When All India Tennis Association (AITA) Secretary-General Anil Dhupar was contacted, he said he will be able to give a clear picture only when he has the complete entry list in his hands. Despite some withdrawals, the cut for 22 teams out of 24 direct acceptances was as high as in the mid-60s, according to sources but the final cut-off could not be confirmed.
Even if there are more withdrawals, it will be extremely difficult for India to have a team in men's doubles. The priority would first be given to singles ranked players, then the singles-doubles combination, and then the doubles-doubles ranking combination.
Since many top players are not part of the singles draw, the lower-ranked players, who consistently compete in doubles also, wouldn't miss the chance to play two events at the Olympics. Each player is allowed to be in two events. As per rules, only those players can be a part of the mixed team event who are already in one of the main draws.
In India's case, it was imperative for Bopanna to be in men's doubles so that he can be paired with Sania Mirza, who will compete in her fourth Olympics with Ankita Raina in the women's doubles event. The limited number of opportunities in terms of tournaments due to COVID-19 lockdown and travel restrictions made it tough for Bopanna and Sharan to improve their rankings.
Bopanna was ranked 38th at the start of the year while left-handed Sharan's ranking only got worse after starting at number 63. India has never missed out on fielding a men's doubles team at the Olympics ever since a young Leander Paes and Ramesh Krishnan competed at the 1992 Olympic Games held in Barcelona.
In editions after the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Paes was there mostly with Mahesh Bhupathi. In 2016, Paes and Bopanna competed and they lost in the first round.