Updated June 4th, 2024 at 16:05 IST

Rohan Bopanna picks Sriram Balaji as his partner for Paris Olympics

Bopanna, only the third Indian to win a Grand Slam title, came close to winning a medal at the Rio Games but he and Sania Mirza had lost the mixed doubles bronze match to the Czech combination of Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka.

Rohan Bopanna | Image:X
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World number four Rohan Bopanna has picked N Sriram Balaji, who impressed with his performance at the French Open, as his partner for the Paris Olympics and All India Tennis Association (AITA) is unlikely to have any objection to the choice made by the veteran player.

The 44-year-old Bopanna wrote to AITA and also marked TOPS in the mail, conveying his decision - a development confirmed by the national federation.

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Balaji and his Mexican partner MA Reyes-Varela Martinez had tested the formidable combo of Bopanna and Australia's Matthew Ebden before losing the men's doubles third round on Monday.

Balaji played well from the baseline with a strong serve backing his game and was equally impressive at the net -- a performance that would have convinced Bopanna that the player from Coimbatore is the best option for him when he returns to Roland Garros for a final shot at an Olympic medal next month.

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Bopanna, only the third Indian to win a Grand Slam title, came close to winning a medal at the Rio Games but he and Sania Mirza had lost the mixed doubles bronze match to the Czech combination of Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka.

"I have sent an email to AITA," Bopanna told PTI from Paris, adding that he will comment on his choice only after hearing back from the national federation.

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Yuki Bhambri, India's number two doubles player at number 52, was also in contention.

The 31-year-old Bhambri made a first round exit from the French Open with French partner Albano Olivetti but has enjoyed success on clay this season, winning the ATP 250 tournament in Munich and ending runners-up at another ATP 250 event in Lyon with the same partner.

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When contacted, AITA Secretary General Anil Dhupar said he does not have any objection to Bopanna playing with Balaji, ranked 84, at the Paris Olympics.

"Rohan has written to us that he wants to play with Balaji. Balaji is a good player. He played well in Pakistan also, rising to the occasion. He also did well on clay at ongoing French Open. Balaji is a big server. If Rohan wants to play with him we have no objection to that," said Dhupar.

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"Let ITF publish the final list after the conclusion of French Open. Let's see if Sumit Nagal also makes it. We will have a selection committee meeting and Bopanna's decision will be conveyed to the panel which shall take a final call." The selection panel is headed by former Davis Cupper Nandan Bal, who also hinted that they would support Bopanna.

"In my personal opinion, we should give Rohan what he wants. At the end of the day, it's his last shot at an Olympic medal and if he feels that it is better to play with Balaji, he would be sure of the choice," Bal told PTI from Mumbai.

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"Still we will discuss the combination whenever AITA convenes the meeting." Former Davis Cupper Balram Singh, Mustafa Ghouse, and Sai Jailakshmi are the other members of the selection panel.

Bal said the AITA Secretary General indeed gives his input to the panel but "does not interfere in the proceedings and the decision is taken independently by the panel." The ATP/WTA rankings on June 10 will be considered for entries. The ITF has to notify all Associations about their qualified athletes by June 12.

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All NOCs will have to confirm their entries to the ITF by June 19. The ITF will reallocate the unused quota places on July 8. 

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Published June 4th, 2024 at 16:05 IST