Asian Games 2023, Tennis Preview: Ankita eyes Paris 2024 spot as history beckons in Hangzhou

Indian players will not be amongst the favourites in the singles categories, where the winners will not only receive gold medals but also book their spots for the Paris Olympics as continental champions.

Published : Sep 22, 2023 11:50 IST - 3 MINS READ

FILE PHOTO: Ankita Raina.
FILE PHOTO: Ankita Raina. | Photo Credit: K. MURALI KUMAR/THE HINDU

FILE PHOTO: Ankita Raina. | Photo Credit: K. MURALI KUMAR/THE HINDU

Rohan Bopanna will lead a nine-member Indian tennis contingent at the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. Bopanna, who clinched men’s doubles gold with Divij Sharan in 2018, will again be the nation’s biggest hope for a podium finish in the sport while pairing up with Yuki Bhambri this time.

At the age of 43, Bopanna is going through one of the best seasons of his career. He reached the mixed doubles final at Australian Open with compatriot Sania Mirza. After forming a new partnership with Australia’s Matthew Ebden in men’s doubles at the start of the year, the Indian has won titles in Doha and Indian Wells while also finishing runner-up at Rotterdam, Madrid and most recently, the US Open where he became the oldest Grand Slam finalist in the Open Era.

READ - Asian Games: Tennis entry lists released, Rohan Bopanna only Top 10 player across all categories

Bopanna and Bhambri, World No. 7 and 65 respectively, are the top seeds while the other Indian pair in the men’s doubles field - Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan - have been seeded second.

However, the country will be among the underdogs in the singles categories, where the winners will not only receive gold medals but also book their spots for the Paris Olympics as continental champions.

World No. 159 Sumit Nagal, the 11th best in Asia, and World No. 569 Ramkumar (not amongst top 50 Asian players) will represent India in the men’s singles category. All India Tennis Association had initially submitted Mukund Sasikumar’s name as second singles player. However, after Sports Ministry’s decision to exclude Mukund from the final squad, the Indian team has decided to fill his spot with Ramkumar, who was originally selected only for doubles duty.

Nagal, the 26-year-old from Jhajjar, had hip surgery in November 2021 and was outside the top 500 at the beginning of this season. While he has done well to win two Challenger titles this year, both of them came on clay. Tennis at Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre will be played on hard courts, a surface on which he has a 10-8 win-loss record (in all competitions) in 2023. He enters Asiad after winning both his singles matches in the recent Davis Cup tie against Morocco but the competition in China is expected to be tougher.

Ramkumar has had a forgettable season with a win-loss record of 7-20, which featured a 13-match losing streak.

Nagal and Ramkumar are fifth and 16th seeds, respectively and have received first round byes. India’s best performance at Asian Games in men’s singles is the gold medal Somdev Devvarman won in 2010 in Guangzhou

Read our other stories on Asian Games - HERE

In women’s singles, World No. 184 Ankita Raina (16th in Asia) and World No. 335 Rutuja Bhosale (37th in Asia) will carry the Indian challenge.

Ankita, who won the bronze medal in 2018 and has played some matches on the WTA Tour this season, seems to have the best chance out of the four Indians in singles in terms of finishing on the podium. However, she would have to play consistently at a high level to go one step further than Sania Mirza’s silver medal-winning performance from 2006 and become the first Indian woman to clinch singles gold at the continental event which features home favourites Qinwen Zheng (World No. 22) and Zhu Lin (World No. 31).

World No. 228 Karman Kaur Thandi had been selected as the second singles player but as per the draw, India has decided to play Rutuja instead and field Karman only in doubles.

Indian tennis squad for Asian Games
Men’s Singles: Sumit Nagal, Ramkumar Ramanathan
Men’s Doubles: Rohan Bopanna-Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni-Ramkumar Ramanathan
Women’s Singles: Ankita Raina, Rutuja Bhosale
Women’s Doubles: Ankita Raina-Prarthana Thombare and Rutuja Bhosale-Karman Kaur Thandi
Mixed Doubles: Ankita Raina-Yuki Bhambri and Rohan Bopanna-Rutuja Bhosale
September 24-30

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