Sania’s road to London gets tougher

Has to maintain doubles top-10 ranking in the absence of regular partner Elena Vesnina

Written by Smriti Sinha | New Delhi | Published: April 20, 2012 3:53 am

When Sania Mirza plays 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.

With the Olympics three months away,Vesnina has been advised by her Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev to partner a fellow Russian in order to improve their chances of a medal at the Olympics.

During their partnership,Sania-Elena have won two titles and reached three other finals,which include last year’s French Open.

This season,Sania’s woes will not only be restricted to adjusting to a new partner in the upcoming tournaments. Her challenge will lie in maintaining her top-10 position — she is currently at No. 9 — in the individual doubles rankings ahead of the June 11 deadline for Olympics nominations.

Only those in the top-10 slot can nominate a partner and reserve their place to play womens doubles at the London Games. Sania is ranked 184 in singles,so doubles is her best best for the Olympics. To play in singles at the Olympics,players have to be within top-56 ranking.

Sania has maintained her top-10 doubles ranking for the past four months. However,she will have to be at her best with her new partner Flavia Pennetta,with whom she will play in Stuttgart. At the French Open,Sania has 1400 points to defend as she had reached the final last year.

Pennetta,though is a part-time arrangement as Sania wants to team up with United States’ Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the long run. After the event in Stuttgart,Sania plans to play women’s doubles with Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova in Estoril and at Madrid Masters.

“Vesnina has decided to partner Ekaterina Makarova with an eye on the Olympics. Sania’s idea is to partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the long run. They have played together before and have a good rapport. They even reached the US Open quarters earlier. But Bethanie is coming off an injury so she is not available to play doubles immediately. Because of that Sania has decided to start the clay season with Flavia Pennetta and then play with Anastasia Rodionova,” Imran Mirza,Sania’s father and coach on the tour,told The Indian Express.

Though Sania has won a tournament with Rodionova this year — at Pattaya City — she will have to defend points at Madrid as she had reached the quarterfinals last year.

Mirza is aware that her journey to London will get tougher if she falters on clay. “There are no guarantees in professional sport but hopefully she can maintain her rank as she has hung on to it this year,” he added.

Sania has committed to playing with Mattek-Sands till Wimbledon,which is the venue for the Games as well. If she fails to maintain her top-10 doubles ranking, Sania’s other hope to make it to the Olympics is a wild card in singles that are to be issued by the International Tennis Federation only by the end of June.

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