Only a wildcard can take Sania Mirza to London Olympics

New Delhi: Sania Mirza failed to protect her top 10 ranking in doubles, slipping to 12 in the latest Women's Tennis Association (WTA) charts released Monday, and that leaves her with no choice but to get a wild card if she has to play at the London Olympics.

Monday was the cut-off day set by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for direct qualification on the basis of the rankings after the French Open. The top-10 in doubles in both the men and women's category earn a direct qualification.

Among men, Leander Paes is the only Indian to qualify for a direct entry in the doubles as he retained his seventh position in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings after the French Open.

The AITA selection committee comprising Jaideep Mukherjea, S.P. Misra, Rohit Rajpal, Zeeshan Ali and Sai Jayalakshmi along with two government nominees will decide Friday, who between Rohan Bopanna (World No.12) and Mahesh Bhupathi (World No.13) will partner Paes.

With Sania failing to make it on the strength of her ranking, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) is trying hard for a wildcard for her. Paraguay's Veronica Cepede Royg and Liechenstein's Stephanie Vogt have been offered two of the four wild cards.

AITA selector S.P. Misra told IANS that since Sania dropped out of top 10 only a wildcard can determine her hopes at the London Games.

"A wildcard can only help her get an entry into the singles and doubles for Olympics. In doubles, she can propose her doubles partner but the AITA selection committee will finally decide the combination," said Misra.

Sania's second Grand Slam title with Bhupathi and the first at the French Open has made sure the pair is India's best bet at the Games, but Paes is still the front-runner to team up with her in London.

The AITA will announce the team June 15 as ITF has set June 21 as the deadline to confirm the entry of eligible players for the Games.