London: Sania Mirza will be the flag-bearer
in singles but India has a lot at stake in the men`s doubles
event as well with an unprecedented five players from the
country competing in the main draw of the Wimbledon starting
here on Monday.
Sania will be playing in her first Grand Slam after tying
the knot with Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik but her
comeback has not been very impressive.
The results of two tournaments she played after a long
injury lay-off are not encouraging. She lost in the second
round of the Birmingham event and failed to qualify for the
following Eastbourne event`s main draw.
And the first round rival of the Indian at the Wimbledon
-- world number 55 Angelique Kerber of Germany -- is not an
It would require a huge effort by Sania to improve on her
performance at the big stage as even if she beats the German,
she will have to contend with either 13th seed Shahar Peer or
former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic in the next round.
Only twice, Sania has reached the third round of a Grand
Slam in her last 14 appearances.
On the other side, although both Somdev Devvarman and
Prakash Amritraj could not qualify for the singles main draw,
some good results are expected in doubles.
India has struggled in the last decade or so to look
beyond estranged partners Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi but
the recent rise of Somdev and the fast improving Rohan Bopanna
has given many a memorable moments to the Indian fans.
Now Harsh Mankad has also joined the bandwagon by
qualifying for a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.
The draw has been a little harsh for Somdev and Bopanna
as it will be end of road for one of them at the very first
round since they are pitted against each other.
Both Paes and Bhupathi are eyeing their 12th Grand Slam
title and the latter would be desperate to end his eight-year
old title drought in the men`s doubles.
Bhupathi has not won a men`s doubles trophy since winning
the US Open in 2002 and his bulging Grand Slam kitty is more
because of seven mixed doubles titles.
Paes has been more consistent and considering his form
and chemistry with Czech Lukas Dlouhy, another title is well
within his reach. They had ended runners-up at Roland Garros
and in the build up event also, they reached the final in The
Bopanna and his Pakistani partner Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi
have improved a lot as a team and can give any good team a run
for their money.
It will be tough for Somdev and Treat Conrad Huey to stop
the Indo-Pak Express.
Mankad is paired with Serbia`s Ilija Bozoljac and it will
be a good learning opportunity for the duo.