New Delhi: She is the dream girl of Indian tennis. And the stakes can't have been higher for Sania Mirza after winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles. However, the world's top doubles player will need to tread with caution when it comes to playing mixed doubles for India.
With less than a year to the all-important 2016 Rio Olympics to go, Indian tennis fans are waiting with bathed breath, whom Mirza should team-up with in the mixed-doubles events. Unlike the previous editions, this time, the All India Tennis Association will have two players to choose from - the veteran Leander Paes or the ambitious Rohan Bopanna.
And considering the way these two male players are producing results, it's sure to give sweet dilemma to the Indian tennis officials. Paes, even at the age of 42, is going strong; while 35-year-old Bopanna is in the prime of his career. The count of Slam titles may tilt heavily in favour of the veteran, but the very fact that 'age' does play an important role in every player's fortune also holds true.
There's enough lesson for the Indian tennis, though. In 2012, ahead of the London Olympics, Paes threatened to pull out if he was not paired with Mirza in the mixed doubles. And this time too, with Paes in the form of his life, is likely to stake his claim to partner the world no. 1. Bopanna is also ready to put his might for the national cause. And both the players have more than fair shares of record and past performances to justify their claims.
It's all but certain that Paes and Bopanna will team-up in the men's doubles, but who partners Mirza in the mixed doubles is indeed the real question.
In such a situation, it may well come down to Mirza's preference. Whoever she selects – if given the chance, the Indian mixed doubles team will be one of the strong contenders for a medal. But the first real test will be to form that team.