SANIA MIRZA, 25
TENNIS, MIXED AND WOMEN’S DOUBLES Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
“Even Rafael Nadal lost to a qualifier ranked outside the top 100 at Wimbledon, not because something went wrong but because his opponent played a little better than him on that day. These things happen in tennis and one has to take it in one's stride.”
HER STORY In June, Sania Mirza lifted the French Open mixed doubles trophy with Mahesh Bhupathi. Now she is in the running to win an Olympic medal with Leander Paes. Even though her country honours her medals and titles by “using her as a bait to pacify a disgruntled tennis stalwart”, she promises to wear her best professional attitude. The PaesMirza match is not made in heaven and there isn’t much time to perfect the pairing. Mirza had to feature in the women’s doubles event in London in order to be eligible for mixed doubles. For this, she was paired with Rushmi Chakravarthi, a veteran on the tennis circuit. The pair got a wild card entry to play in London. The duo’s last association was a fruitful one, yielding India a bronze at the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010.
VANTAGE POINT Paes reached the finals at Wimbledon this year with Elena Vesnina of Russia while Mirza won her second Grand Slam title at the French Open. Both have had a good European summer and if they can work as a cohesive team, they have a good shot at winning a medal.
CHALLENGE AHEAD India’s clumsy women’s doubles pairing might not be able to face some of the finest in the world, from defending champions Serena and Venus Williams of the US to World No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska and her sister Urszula of Poland.
OLYMPIC RUN- UP At 34, Chakravarthi is well past her prime. Mirza’s form has also been inconsistent since 2010. The two don’t look poised for victory. Similarly, Paes and Mirza started practising together only from July 23. Their inability to train consistently means they will be second guessing each other on court, which could spell double trouble.