The All India TennisAssociation (AITA) has selected three doubles specialists, including Leander Paes, in the men’s team for the Asian Games to be staged in Palembang, Jakarta from August 19th to 25th.
While exempting the country’s No. 1 singles player, the 93rd ranked Yuki Bhambri, from national duty to help him focus on the US Open, as he has a very good chance of figuring in the main draw, the selectors with S.P. Misra as the chairman, stuck to the rankings to decide the teams.
Rohan Bopanna (24), Divij Sharan (41) and Paes (56) the top-three ranked doubles players got the nod, ahead of Purav Raja who has slipped to No. 65.
After helping the Indian team win the Davis Cup tie against China on April 7, Paes has not competed in the professional circuit, owing to personal reasons. He is scheduled to join the grass court season soon.
Paes has not played at the Asian Games after winning the doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi and the mixed doubles gold with Sania Mirza in Doha in 2006.
It may be recalled that the Indian men’s doubles teams had won a silver and a bronze in the last Asian Games in Incheon, while Saketh Myneni went on to win the mixed doubles gold with Sania Mirza.
The three singles players will be Ramkumar Ramanathan, Pajnesh Gunneswaran and Sumit Nagal, all of whom may be skipping the qualifying event of the US Open to play for the National team.
In the women’s section, the top-five ranked players Ankita Raina (208), Karman Kaur Thandi (264), Rutuja Bhosale (400), Pranjala Yadlapalli (426) and Riya Bhatia (623) were selected along with the doubles specialist, the 185th ranked Prarthana Thombare.
In the company of Sania, Prarthana had won the doubles bronze in the last edition.
Zeeshan Ali and Ankita Bhambri will be the captains of the men’s and women’s teams respectively, while Gaurang Shukla and Anand Kumar Dubey have been appointed as the physios for the two teams.
All the players who have been selected for the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) for financial assistance for the preparation of the Tokyo Olympics, have been kept in the list only till the Asian Games.
Men: Ramkumar Ramanathan, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Sumit Nagal, Rohan Bopanna, Divij Sharan and Leander Paes. Coach: Zeeshan Ali.
Women: Ankita Raina, Karman Kaur Thandi, Rutuja Bhosale, Pranjala Yadlapalli, Riya Bhatia and Prarthana Thombare. Coach: Ankita Bhambri.