In a big blow to India's medal hopes at the London Olympics, Sania Mirza crashed out of the women doubles event of the French Open with a first round defeat along with her partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands, here on Tuesday. Sania, who is world number 10 in the individual doubles ranking, needed to stay in top-10 before the June 11 cut-off mark to make a direct entry into the women's doubles draw of the Olympics.
A place in the main draw of the women's doubles or singles would have given Sania a place in the mixed doubles event at the London Games where she was expected to partner with Mahesh Bhupathi. And for that she needed to defend 1400 points at the Roland Garros, where she was a finalist last year. Only a top-10 player makes a direct entry into the Olympics with a privilege to choose partner, irrespective of his/her ranking.
Such poor is the state of Indian women tennis that next best player after Sania is Rushmi Chakravathi, who is ranked 514 in the doubles. Their combined ranking would not take them anywhere close to the qualification mark. Now only a wild card entry can ensure Sania's place in the singles draw of the Olympics. If All India Tennis Association manages to get that, only then she can play in the mixed doubles event at London.
In Tuesday's match, 15th seeded Sania and Bethanie, winners of the Brussels Open last week, fought well after losing the first set but it was not their day. After drawing parity, they broke their rivals in the crucial 10th game to make it 5-5 in the third set but dropped serve in the next game. They again needed to break the Romanian-Russian pair in the do-or-die 12th game but failed to do so this time around. AITA, which has applied for a singles wild card for Sania, was cautious in reacting to her defeat. "Let's see what happens. We will see what to do," was all AITA secretary general Anil Khanna had to say.