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Leander Paes’ Rio 2016 Olympics dream hinges on Rohan Bopanna

Placed 46th on the charts, Paes, who won the mixed doubles title with Martina Hingis at the French Open, is India’s highest-ranked doubles player after Bopanna.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | New Delhi |
Updated: June 7, 2016 2:24:23 pm
Leander Paes, Paes ranking, Rohan Bopanna, Bopanna India, Paes Bopanna, ATP ranking, Rio 2016 Olympics, Rio Olympics 2016, sports news, sports, tennis news, Tennis The ITF will send a list of eligible players to AITA on June 9. The selection committee will meet to decide India’s teams for the Olympics will then meet on June 11.

“The Decision.”

On Monday morning, Brazilian player Andre Sa took a picture [see right] of Rohan Bopanna studying International Tennis Federation’s Olympic selection criteria, posted it on Twitter, and captioned it: “The Decision: Paes/Bhupathi or someone else!??”

Perhaps, India’s quadrennial Olympic tennis saga is a topic of discussion — or a joke — even on the circuit now. But in the Indian tennis circles, it’s not funny anymore. As the rankings became official on Monday, the All India Tennis Federation (AITA) swung into action, trying to ensure it doesn’t get ugly as it did four years ago.

But there’s not much in their hands. As the ATP released its latest rankings on Monday, the ones that will matter for Olympic qualification, Bopanna did what he had to — be there in top 10. Now, he has the autonomy to select his partner for the Rio Games, and one thing that appears clear is that he is looking at partners beyond Leander Paes.

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READ: Leander Paes may miss out on mixed doubles for sake of 7th Olympics

Placed 46th on the charts, Paes, who won the mixed doubles title with Martina Hingis at the French Open, is India’s highest-ranked doubles player after Bopanna. The next-best option for Bopanna would be Saketh Myneni, ranked 125, since Purav Raja (103) and Divij Sharan (114) do not meet an ITF criteria, which makes it mandatory for a player to have played a Davis Cup tie in the last two years to be eligible for Olympics.

READ: Bopanna officially enters top-10, secures direct entry for Rio

Bopanna and Myneni have played together during Davis Cup weekends but have hardly looked impressive. A senior AITA official said they are trying to ‘convince’ Bopanna to partner Paes, which would ensure the best team goes to the Olympics. “We have given players the freedom to choose their partners. But they have to come up with a rational decision. If Rohan selects a partner who we believe isn’t good enough, then we will tell him to change. Right now, he and Leander are our best bets and we will try to convince him,” the official said.

The ITF will send a list of eligible players to AITA on June 9. The selection committee will meet to decide India’s teams for the Olympics will then meet on June 11.

READ: Paes conquers Paris but Rio hopes in Bopanna’s hands

In mixed doubles, it seems pretty clear that Bopanna will partner Sania Mirza, considering the duo’s combined ranking will help them make the cut. In women’s doubles, Sania is likely to partner Prarthna Thombre.

Although these two categories look sorted, there is still some suspense over men’s doubles pairing. A few hours after Andre Sa’s tweet, even Abhinav Bindra took to the social network, asking Bopanna tongue in cheek: “Congratulations! Whom do you partner?” Bopanna merely thanked Bindra, ignoring the second part. But it’s an issue he won’t be able to skirt for long.

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