Sania Mirza, Somdev Devvarman get wild cards for London Olympics

New Delhi: Ending days of speculation, Sania Mirza was on Tuesday awarded a wild card entry along with Rushmi Chakravarthi for the women’s doubles tennis event at the London Olympics.

Somdev Devvarman, too, was given a wild card in men’s singles, thereby making it the largest tennis contingent ever fielded by India in Olympics.

It was learnt that the All India Tennis Association (AITA) has got a letter from International Tennis Federation (ITF) president Francesco Ricci Bitti stating that they have awarded wild cards to Sania and Rushmi for women’s doubles event and Somdev for men’s singles.

With their participation confirmed, India will now have seven tennis players competing in London.

Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna, Visnu Vardhan were the other four selected by the AITA selection committee here last week.

Paes had demanded a written assurance from Sania that she would play only with him and not Mahesh Bhupathi in the mixed doubles.

Paes, who it is believed, was waiting for the announcement of the wild card, will now have to clear his stand quickly.

Sania, too, kept mum on the issue till now as she was not consulted before deciding the combination.

While the Hyderabadi had earlier expressed her desire to partner Bhupathi, the AITA broke the recently-crowned French Open combination to appease Paes.

AITA had to bow down to Bhupathi and Bopanna’s demand that they be paired as team for the men’s doubles event, following their unwillingness to play with Paes.

Paes was then paired with Vardhan in lieu of a mixed doubles pairing with Sania.

Thirty-two teams will contest in the men’s and women’s doubles, with 24 direct acceptances and eight ITF places in both events.

Direct acceptances were based on the combined world rankings of each team on June 11, with each player using the better of their singles and doubles world ranking.

Any player ranked in the doubles Top 10 on June 11 was eligible for direct acceptance with a partner of any ranking.

Mixed doubles has been included in the Olympics for the first time since 1924.

Entries for the 16-team event will be determined on site from those players already participating in singles or doubles.

Teams have to be nominated by their National Olympic Committee by July 31. There will be 12 direct acceptances based on the combined world rankings of each team on June 11, and four ITF places.

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