Realising that a few medal prospects at next year’s Asian Games have been left out of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme, the AITA on Tuesday sought inclusion of top women’s singles player Ankita Raina and three men’s players, but has left out veteran Leander Paes.
In the initial list of tennis players selected for financial assistance under the TOPS, the government had announced seven names, including top doubles stars such as Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna.
However, country’s top women’s singles player Ankita Raina was a surprise exclusion while second-best ranked player Karman Kaur Thandi and Prarthna Thombare, who focuses more on doubles, were included in the list.
Apart from Ankita, AITA has also requested the ministry to include Divij Sharan, Purav Raja and Saketh Myneni.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee said the Federation had given these four names before also but it was the government and national observer Somdev Devvarman who had finalised the list.
“We had given names of these players before also, keeping the rankings in mind, but these players were left out. We have Asian Games lined up next year and all these players, we believe, are medal prospects for India,” Chatterjee told PTI.
“Divij is doing really well and so is Raja and Saketh. Saketh also won a Challenger three days back. He was injured and has come back well. We have written to the government to sanction grants to these players also,” he added.
The AITA arrived at the decision at its recent Executive Committee meeting in Kolkata.
Sharan and Raja had a successful stint as a team before splitting recently.
Delhi’s southpaw Sharan had excellent back-to-back performances on the Tour in his last three events, winning the ATP 250 European Open title with Scott Lipksy and ending runner-up at the Brest Challenger with Scott Clayton and at Tashkent Challenger with Yuki Bhambri.
Sharan is now India’s second-highest ranked player at number 51 in the doubles behind Rohan Bopanna (14).
Purav Raja, who now plays with Paes, is number three at 62, seven places above his partner.
Asked if Paes’ name was discussed for addition to the list, Chatterjee said, “He (Paes) has not played Asian Games in the last few years, so his name was not discussed.”
Both Paes and Bopanna had missed the 2014 Incheon Games, citing the need to play on the professional Tour to defend crucial points.
Sania had also initially expressed inability to play but eventually turned up and won the mixed doubles gold with Myneni and women’s doubles bronze with Thombare.