New Delhi: Sania Mirza was today awarded a wild card entry into the women's doubles event of the London Olympics, ending suspense over her participation in the event and also making her eligible to compete in the mixed doubles competition in which India is hopeful of winning a medal.
Sania was handed a wild card along with veteran Rushmi Chakravarthy while Asian Games gold medallist Somdev Devvarman was given a wild card entry in the men's singles event.
Sania's wild card entry will now turn the spotlight on a miffed Leander Paes who is yet to take a final call on his participation following the selection row over the men's doubles team.
In a compromise formula worked out by AITA, Paes was forced to play with 206-ranked Vishnu Vardhan in the men's doubles event against his wishes and was paired with Sania in the mixed section.
Paes had however not given his nod to the compromise deal, raising speculations on whether the veteran tennis player would indeed carry out his threat of boycotting the Games.
The two wild card entries meant India will be fielding its largest ever tennis contingent in the Olympics.
All India Tennis Association has received a letter from International Tennis Federation (ITF) President Francesco Ricci Bitti, stating that wild card applications for Sania and Somdev have been accepted.
Paes had demanded a written assurance from Sania that she would play only with him instead of Mahesh Bhupathi in the mixed doubles.
Paes, who it is believed, was waiting for announcement of the wild card, will now have to clear his stand quickly.
Sania, too, kept mum on the issue till now as she was not consulted before deciding the combination and it will be interesting to see if she also takes a stand on her combination with Paes.
While the Hyderabadi had earlier expressed her desire to partner Bhupathi, the AITA broke the recently-crowned French Open combination to appease Paes.
AITA had to bow down to Bhupathi and Bopanna's demand that they be paired as team for the men's doubles event, following their unwillingness to play with Paes. Paes was then paired with Vardhan in lieu of a mixed doubles pairing with Sania.
Thirty-two teams will contest in the men's and women's doubles, with 24 direct acceptances and eight ITF places in both events.
Direct acceptances were based on the combined world rankings of each team on June 11, with each player using the better of their singles and doubles world ranking.
Any player ranked in the doubles Top 10 on June 11 was eligible for direct acceptance with a partner of any ranking. Mixed doubles has been included in the Olympics for the first time since 1924.
Entries for the 16-team event will be determined on site from those players already participating in singles or doubles.
Teams have to be nominated by their National Olympic Committee by July 31. There will be 12 direct acceptances based on the combined world rankings of each team on June 11, and four ITF Places.
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