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Sanam to bolster Indian challenge

sports Updated: Oct 23, 2010 01:01 IST
Sukhwant Basra

In a forward-looking decision, Indian tennis selectors have opted for Sanam Singh as a member of the Asian Games squad over other higher ranked players.

With Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna set to skip the event for the season-ending World Tour Finals, India's medal haul is bound to suffer. However, given the form Sanam displayed at the Chennai Open, his possible pairing with Somdev Devvarman gives cause for optimism.

India won two gold and two silver in Doha four years ago. Paes and Bhupathi won the men's doubles gold and Paes teamed with Sania Mirza for the mixed doubles title. Sania also won a individual silver.

According to the All India Tennis Association (AITA), Devvarman has confirmed availability despite speculation to the contrary. India's No. 1 singles player was said to be reluctant to stay two more weeks away from the Tour where he can earn points and maintain his top-100 ranking.

Devvarman is said to be working on getting his alma mater - University of Virginia - to give Sanam permission to participate. If Sanam can't make it, the federation is looking to call in just-retired Harsh Mankad who, at 121, is the highest-ranked Indian doubles player after the more famous trio figuring in the top-20.

At 774 on the rankings, Sanam is behind five players not in the squad. However, that's got more to do with him playing collegiate tennis instead of Futures.

What is most unfortunate is that Yuki Bhambri (556) has to miss out on account of a bout of pneumonia that has left him considerably weak. The kind of courage that Bhambri displayed in his maiden Davis Cup rubber against South Africa though augurs well for the future.

The AITA has listed Bhupathi and Bopanna as part of the team too as it wants to give them an opportunity to make it for the individual events beginning November 17 in case either does not qualify for the season-ender. Both will bolster India's doubles and mixed doubles challenge.

Vishnu Vardhan's long struggle has also paid off, as has Karan Rastogi's brave comeback from a back operation. Among the women, Kolkata-based former player Satyajit Burman's daughter Shivika has also finally caught the eye of the selectors.