Rohan Bopanna gets his ‘explosive’ Balaji wish for Paris; Sumit Nagal an alternate for now | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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Rohan Bopanna gets his ‘explosive’ Balaji wish for Paris; Sumit Nagal an alternate for now

ByRutvick Mehta, Mumbai
Jun 13, 2024 09:16 PM IST

India's doubles world No. 4 Rohan Bopanna will compete at the Paris Olympics with his chosen partner, N Sriram Balaji.

India's doubles world No. 4 Rohan Bopanna will compete at the Paris Olympics with his chosen partner, N Sriram Balaji, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) confirmed on Thursday, while top singles pro Sumit Nagal remains among the alternates for now.

Rohan Bopanna of India celebrates after he and Matthew Ebden of Australia defeated Austin Krajicek of the United States and Ivan Dodig of Croatia during the Men's Doubles Final at Hard Rock Stadium(Getty Images via AFP)
Rohan Bopanna of India celebrates after he and Matthew Ebden of Australia defeated Austin Krajicek of the United States and Ivan Dodig of Croatia during the Men's Doubles Final at Hard Rock Stadium(Getty Images via AFP)

AITA received the International Tennis Federation (ITF) communique confirming Bopanna’s direct entry in the doubles draw and the 77th-ranked Nagal’s alternate status in singles, which should likely see him in Paris eventually due to withdrawals. “As of now, the ITF has stated that he is an alternate,” AITA secretary general Anil Dhupar said.

AITA also confirmed Balaji will partner Bopanna, backing the Australian Open doubles champion’s preference of partner as a top 10 player. The association had, for the 2016 Rio Olympics, gone against his wishes at a time when selection controversies were synonymous to Indian tennis around multi-sport events.

“We've all had some crazy times in the past. It’s wonderful that this time AITA also understood what the positives of the pick were," Bopanna said over phone.

The former world No. 1 said the choice was between the 67th-ranked Balaji — a doubles specialist, he made the third round at this French Open and played against Bopanna in it — and the 54th-ranked Yuki Bhambri who recently won an ATP doubles title in Munich on clay.

"Whoever I’d picked, it was always tough on the other one," Bopanna said. “I spoke to both Balu (coach Balachandran Manikkath), who had travelled with Yuki and Bala of late, and my coach Scott (Davidoff), and discussed a lot of pros and cons.

“Being on clay, I thought somebody with more weapons could be beneficial as my partner. Though Yuki is also playing good tennis, for me at this stage I need a partner with an explosive gamestyle who is also quick and agile," he added.

The 44-year-old, who will turn up for his third Olympics after missing out on the Tokyo Games, said he and Balaji will look to get together for “minimum one or two weeks” after Wimbledon and compete in a couple of ATP events on clay heading into Paris. The

doubles field at the Olympics wears a different look, with top singles players also doubling up. Spain, for instance, will have Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz joining forces at Roland Garros.

“Olympics is very different that way. The top singles guys also play doubles and the field is difficult. Having said that, with my tennis being pretty good for the last 18 months or so, they will know it won’t be easy,” said Bopanna, who will have coach Manikkath

and his physio Rebecca Van Orshaegen travelling along.

Nagal, who made a big push to be at the doorsteps of the Olympics by winning the Heilbronn Challenger last week that saw his rankings jump from 95 to 77, will need pull-outs to get in the singles draw. It remains quite a realistic eventuality, especially given how close the Indian is to the cut-off.

While national associations have until June 19 to confirm their singles players and nominate doubles teams, the ITF will publish the final list of entries on July 4.

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