Bringing end all speculations, India's top-ranked female singles tennis player Ankita Raina announced that she will partner Sania Mirza in the Tokyo Olympics, which begins on July 23. Raina confirmed her selection to her employer ONGC in a tweet on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old Raina wrote: ""With great honour and pride, I inform you that I have been selected to represent India at the Olympics in the women's doubles category, partnering Sania Mirza. The effort and hard work put in all these years have been fruitful with your invaluable support and encouragement! I take this opportunity to express my immense gratitude to ONGC corporation. I will do my best to make India proud,"
While Raina will be taking part in her first Olympics, it will be Sania's fourth appearance will be in the Olympics. The six-time Grand Slam winner has made the cut for Tokyo Olympics through her protected world ranking of no. 9 in the women's doubles event, which was granted to her because of pregnancy and injuries. Because of Sania's protected rankings, can choose any Indian partner ranked inside the top 300 as her partner at Tokyo. Raina is ranked 95th in doubles and 183rd in singles currently.
Raina could also feature in Tokyo Olympics' singles draw having won the bronze medal at the Asian Games. The Asian Games gold medal winner receives a wild card to the Olympics. However, in this case, both gold and silver medallists — Wang Qiang and Zhang Shuai (both from China) — will directly qualify for Tokyo Olympics based on their rankings of 39 and 46, opening the door for Raina's qualification.
The mixed doubles event does not have a qualification criterion, but the entrants should be participating in either one of the singles and doubles competitions and should have a combined ranking among the top 16.
In the men's doubles, the weight of expectations this time around will solely lie on India's top-ranked doubles player Rohan Bopanna. The 39-year-old had to partner with Paes for the 2016 games after major controversies. But the pairing earned limited success. The pair couldn't cross the first-round hurdle. Bopanna is currently ranked 40th in the ATP Rankings. It would be interesting to see who he will choose to partner with for the Tokyo games. Bopanna did team up with Divij Sharan, India's second highest-ranked doubles player in 2020, in a few of the ATP tournaments in the 2019 season gaining mixed results.
Mirza's story has already been an incredible one so far. An Olympic medal could justify her illustrious career. In the 2012 Olympics, Sania had partnered with Leander Paes, where they had lost in the quarterfinals to top seed and eventual winner Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi of Belarus. While in the 2016 Olympics, Sania partnered Rohan Bopanna as the fourth seed and lost in the semifinal to eventual silver medalists Rajeev Ram and Venus Williams. They closely lost in the bronze match to Radek Štěpánek and Lucie Hradecká of Czech Republic.
Going by her performance in the Olympics in the mixed doubles event, she would like to team up with Bopanna as they had a comparatively better performance at the Olympics.