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Still betting on old horses

Experts and former players don't see India winning a medal in London — unless Lee-Hesh pull out one last ace. Sharmistha Chaudhuri writes. The road to London | Paes at the Olympics

sports Updated: Aug 04, 2011 01:30 IST
Sharmistha Chaudhuri

"It will be tough going for tennis at next year's Olympic Games," sums up former Davis Cup captain, Naresh Kumar, on India's possibilities of a medal. "Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will be a year older. Men's doubles is considered the best bet, provided they keep themselves injury free."

"Sania Mirza has been doing well in doubles on the WTA Tour but with a Russian partner. She's not in the running for singles and doubles too seems unlikely because of the lack of partners. A medal in men's singles is bleak as all the best players in the world like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will be vying for gold," Naresh told HT.

The best bet

With tennis being held on the grass courts of Wimbledon, it should favour the 'Indian Express' if one goes by their record. Also, what might favour the aging duo is that not many doubles pairs on the ATP circuit are from the same nation. Unfortunately for Sania or Somdev Devvarman, the surface does not rank among their favourites. http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/040811/04_08_11-metro19.jpg

"Though men's doubles is the best bet, Paes and Bhupathi must keep their fitness levels high," said current Davis Cup captain, SP Mishra. "In singles, though it will be difficult to get a medal, it's not impossible."

However, former Davis Cupper, Akhtar Ali, seemed hopeful. "It'll possibly be the last Olympics for Leander and Mahesh, so they'll be looking for a medal. They have played quite a few Olympics but haven't been able to achieve that," he said.

At the 2004 Athens Games, the duo lost a marathon bronze-medal play-off to Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic of Croatia. It was the closest they have ever come to winning a medal.

"To even win a couple of rounds will be great," added former Davis Cupper, Jaidip Mukerjea. "If the guys manage to do that, even a bronze will be fantastic. If India can get in a second men's doubles team, they too might have a chance at a medal."

Going by rules, if Rohan Bopanna can maintain his position in the top-10 of the ATP doubles chart, he could nominate a partner.

"In mixed doubles, it's likely that Sania will be paired with one of the doubles specialists. Our chances are bright in the event," said Mukerjea.

AITA's take
The sports ministry will give seven players $6000 (Rs2.7 lakh) a month for either training or travelling towards their preparation for the Olympics. The players are Paes, Bhupathi, Devvarman, Bopanna, Sania, Sanam Singh and Yuki Bhambri.

While Sanam and Bhambri are expected to use the money for travelling, the other five will supposedly use it for training.