Rohan to pair with either Balaji or Yuki at Paris Games

| | New Delhi
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Rohan to pair with either Balaji or Yuki at Paris Games

Tuesday, 21 May 2024 | PTI | New Delhi

India’s top doubles player Rohan Bopanna will pick either N Sriram Balaji or Yuki Bhambri as his partner for the Paris Olympics and All India Tennis Association (AITA) will most likely approve his choice even as the combinations will be discussed by the selection committee.

Ranked four in the world, 44-year-old Bopanna, being a top-10 player, can pick a player of his choice as per the rules.

The men’s doubles draw at the Paris Games will be a 32-team affair, where one nation can have a maximum of two teams.

The qualification criteria gives top-10 players the privilege to pick their partners, who should be inside top-300 on the ATP and WTA ranking charts.

The rankings of June 10 after the conclusion of the French Open will be considered for qualifications.

According to AITA sources, Bopanna had recommended names of Balaji and Bhambri to the national federation for inclusion in TOPS as his potential partners for Paris Olympics.

“Usually, it’s the player’s choice (to pick his partner). The selection committee will ask him about his choice and discuss that. Whoever Rohan wants to play with, will be considered positively,” AITA Secretary General Anil Dhupar told PTI when asked if the national federation will allow Bopanna to play with the partner of his choice or impose its own choice on him.

Both Balaji and Bhambri have got some decent results on clay in lead up to the Roland Garros, where the action will unfold during the Summer Olympics from July 27.

Balaji won the Cagliari Challenger event with German partner Andre Begemann apart from reaching the semifinals at Francavilla al Mare in Italy.

Bhambri won the ATP 250 event in Munich with French player Albano Olivetti in April and reached the semifinals of the Bordeaux Challenger — the only event he competed this month.

The nominations for Olympics or other multi-sporting events have often created controversy in Indian tennis. In 2012, a huge controversy had erupted when both Mahesh Bhupathi and Bopanna had refused to pair with Leander Paes, who was forced to play with Vishnu Vardhan.

Sania Mirza was then asked to pair with Paes in the mixed doubles event and the top woman player of the country had chastised the AITA for using her as bait to placate Paes.

In the 2018 Asian Games, Paes had pulled out of the continental event just two days before the start of tennis competition, saying he was not given a specialist player to pair with. AITA had nominated Bopanna and Divij Sharan as a team, leaving Paes with no option but to pair with one of the singles players in the squad.

It will be Bopanna’s last shot at wining an Olympic medal, having come close to a bronze medal with Sania Mirza in the mixed event of the 2016 Rio Games.

In the singles, Sumit Nagal will need a good run at the French Open to boost his ranking. He is placed 94 as of Monday.

In a draw of 64, the organisers will accept 56 direct entries and out of six ITF places, three men’s quotas have been awarded to winners of continental events — Asian Games, African Games and Pan-American Games.

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