Former doubles No.1 is experienced, but Ankita, Nagal need to strike above their weight
India’s weak hopes of winning a tennis medal at the Tokyo Olympics will rest on Sania Mirza. The former world No. 1 in doubles will be making her fourth Olympic appearance, and the 34-year-old will have Ankita Raina, six years younger, in her wake.
The challenge that awaits the Indian duo, however, will be Herculean, with accomplished pairs such as Barbora Krejcikova-Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic (reigning Roland Garros and three-time major champion), Elena Vesnina-Vera Zvonareva of Russia (both three – Slam champions) headlining.
American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic, Hungarian Timea Babos, Belgian Elise Mertens and Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka are other notable names, among them 19 major titles in women’s doubles.
Sania’s record – three women’s doubles and three slam trophies in mixed doubles – is also noteworthy, but her lack of match training and current form are concerns. In 2021, she only played eight women’s doubles matches in four tournaments, with a 4-4 record.
None of those came with Ankita, with whom Sania last played in the Group I Billie Jean King Cup Asia-Oceania round robin in March 2020, winning all three matches.
Since then, Ankita has entered the doubles top 100, won a WTA Tour level trophy and featured in several main Grand Slam draws. But it will take a unique effort to get close to a medal.
In men’s singles, Sumit Nagal’s late entry has brought joy, but podium hopes seem overdone. The 23-year-old’s record of 13-13 wins and losses since reaching the quarter-finals of the ATP 250 in Buenos Aires in March is far from ideal to enter an event that almost looks like the Grand Slam, with nine of the top 15 in the world. , including four of the first five, present.
In fact, the last Indian to win a singles match at the Olympics was Leander Paes in 1996. Ending this drought will be a great achievement.
Nagal and Sania are eligible for mixed doubles, but with a combined ranking of 153, they might struggle to make it into the top 16 teams.