All India Tennis Association President Anil Khanna showed the kind of clout he has with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) by pulling off two wildcards for the London Olympics: Sania Mirza in doubles and Somdev Devvarman in singles.
Sania, who had narrowly missed the rankings cut,
enters the doubles draw on one of the eight ITF places and has been teamed up with 34-year-old Rushmi Chakravarthi.
The ITF place is crucial given that it makes Sania eligible for a mixed doubles slot.
Given that India already had two direct entries in men's doubles, it is incredible that the nation was awarded two wildcards, because Olympic wildcards are generally decided on the principle of spreading the spirit of the game to nations which do not have representation at an event. Obviously, Khanna has pulled some major strings and called in some big favours.
While Khanna deserves credit for making sure the Indian youngsters got a ticket to the biggest sporting extravaganza, it might open another chapter in the ongoing Indian tennis drama before the Olympics.
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are both keen on partnering Sania. India have the best shot at a medal, after a compromise formula was reached in the doubles.
Yet to be decided
The mixed doubles is a spot sign-in event, which means only players either in singles or doubles draw could enter the event, before the deadline of July 31. In the draw of 16, there will be 12 direct entries based on the combined rankings of the team.
Given that criteria, it would be a safer bet for Sania to play with Paes, who is ranked No 7 in doubles as of ITF's cut-off date on June 11.
Devvarman, meanwhile, will be thrown in at the deep end immediately on his comeback from a shoulder injury.