Tennis gets new dates for Tokyo Olympics qualification

The International Tennis Federation has extended the Tokyo cut-off date by a year.

The tennis entries for the Tokyo Olympics next year will take place based on the rankings as of June 7, 2021, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced on Tuesday.

The original cut-off date was supposed to be June 8 this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Tokyo Olympics to be pushed forward by a year, necessitating the change in dates.

However, with uncertainty over when the Association of Tennis Players (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) will restart the current season, it is unclear how many opportunities there will be for Indian tennis players to improve their rankings.

The ATP has suspended all events till the end of July, and clarification regarding when the season will begin is expected within the next month.

As of now, Indian tennis’ hopes of representation at the Tokyo Olympics rests on the doubles pair of Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan, with the duo’s combined ATP ranking of 93 making them the best option to travel as part of the Indian contingent.

The Indian tennis duo has had success in the past, winning gold at the 2018 Asian Games.

Though they played together only sporadically last year, winning the ATP 250 Tata Open Maharashtra, the Indian tennis pair were planning to team up prior to the Olympics originally scheduled for this year.

“We had spoken about playing tournaments in Morocco, Hungary, and Portugal in the clay-court season that we were looking to play in our lead up to the French Open,” Divij Sharan told the Olympic Channel.

Those plans have naturally been pushed forward now and the delay will allow the Indian tennis duo to play together in more tournaments and improve their partnership, he believed.

Women’s doubles

Indian tennis could also witness a women’s doubles team play at the Tokyo Olympics next year should veteran Sania Mirza choose to make use of her protected rankings.

The WTA allows players with a pregnancy lay-off of more than six months to keep their rankings before their break till one year after they return to the Tour.

Sania Mirza, who was ranked ninth in the doubles when she took a maternity break in late-2017, made a winning return at the Hobart International earlier this year, making her eligible to use the updated rankings till January 2021.

If she does wish to play at the Tokyo Olympics, the Indian tennis star will likely partner Ankita Raina, whose current doubles rank of 122, combined with Sania Mirza’s protected ranking, should be good enough to play at the marquee event.

This will also mean that an Indian tennis mixed doubles pairing, consisting of players already at the event, would be seen in action at the Tokyo Olympics, increasing the medal prospects.

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