Tokyo Olympics: Indian tennis players looking to overcome tough draw

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Indian tennis players only need a miraculous performance to get closer to the medal rounds as Sania Mirza’s side and debutante Ankita Raina face a tough Ukrainian challenge in the opener while Sumit Nagal has a tough draw in the singles competition starting on Saturday. . Sania, who is making her fourth Olympic appearance, and debutante Raina go to the Olympics without playing a single competitive game together this year, which is far from ideal preparation for the biggest sporting event in the world. The last time Sania and Raina shared the pitch was in March 2020 during the Billie Jean King Cup.

They will open their campaign against the Ukrainian twin sisters Nadiia and Lyudmyla Kichenok.

“Each game is going to be a challenge and we will take one game at a time. Due to the pandemic and the quarantine rules, we were playing different tournaments. So after the Fed Cup we didn’t have the chance to play together. “said Raina PTI.

However, Sania has a lot of experience and she plays with a player who is known to strike over her weight while representing the nation.

Raina has a big heart, but it will all depend on how Sania performs, who has not been in top form as her serve is a problem.

At the recent Wimbledon Championships, Sania gradually improved her game from baseline, but her weak serve was easily attacked by rivals.

Interestingly, when Sania returned to competitive tennis after the COVID-19-induced hiatus in March this year, she and her Slovenian partner Andreja Klepac faced the same pair of Ukrainian sisters and prevailed.

Ranked as low as 137 after maternity leave, Sania, 34, has only made eight appearances this season with a 4-4 win-loss record.

Raina, 28, ranked 100, has only one main draw victory in singles since the start of the 2021 season.

In doubles, she clinched her first-ever WTA title with partner Kamila Rakhimova at the Phillip Island Trophy in Melbourne in February and made her way into the doubles top 100, but suffered five straight first-round losses thereafter.

Without Sania’s protected standings at nine, India would not have a women’s doubles team at the Games.

In contrast, 44th-ranked Nadiia had appeared in eight WTA Tour events with her 48th-ranked sister Lyudmyla Kichenok in 2020 and one this year.

Together they haven’t seen much success, but Nadiia has otherwise achieved decent results with Romania’s Raluca Olaru in 2021.

They took victory in St. Petersburg (WTA 500) in March and reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart (WTA 500) in April and finished second in Bad Homburg last month.

If Sania and Raina win their opener, they could face America’s eighth seed Nicole Melichar (number 9) in doubles and Alison Riske (world number 36 in singles) in the next round.

In men’s singles Sumit Nagal is extremely lucky to get an entry to the Olympics as with a rank of 144 on the June 14 deadline, he was nowhere near making the cut.

However, a wave of withdrawals pushed him inside.

Nagal’s recent performance does not inspire confidence. Although at the start of the season, he scored the biggest victory of his career, beating world number 22 Cristian Garin.

However, after that, he only managed two quarterfinal appearances at Challenger level, struggling poorly on the Tour.

Nagal had hinted that he was having some health issues and that was the reason he wasn’t getting the results he wanted.

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He faces Asian Games champion Denis Istomin in his first round. The Uzbekistan veteran won the Jakarta 2018 Games quota by winning the men’s singles title.

The crusher that is Nagal, it is possible that he will overtake the 34-year-old Uzbek, but the Indian could face world number two and Australian Open finalist Danill Medvedev of Russia and that could be the end out of the way for him.

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