Yuki's absence has hit our medal chances: Zeeshan

Yuki's absence has hit our medal chances: Zeeshan

Zeeshan Ali, the captain of the men’s tennis team for the Asian Games, expects a tough outing for India at Palembang and says they will miss their top players Yuki Bhambri and Sania Mirza.

Yuki, who is India No 1 men’s singles players, was exempted from the Games as he is expected to qualify for the main draw of the US Open. Sania, on the other hand, is on family way. The tennis event of the quadrennial showpiece begins on August 19 at Palembang, a venue which is unfamiliar to most players. Yuki’s absence, Zeeshan felt, would affect their gold medal chances. The Delhi player had returned with two bronze medals in the Incheon Asian Games.

“Yuki made a professional decision and I absolutely respect that. But then in terms of Asian Games, it hit our gold medal chances. Yuki is our only player in the top 100. Having said that, our other two singles players -- Ramkumar Ramanathan (ranked 161) and Prajnesh Gunneswaran (184) -- are also doing well. A lot will depend on the draw too. The competition in the Asian Games has grown tougher with each year," Zeeshan told DH.

The selection committee stuck to the rankings in picking three singles and three doubles players. Rohan Bopanna (27), Divij Sharan (36) and Leander Paes (75) were the top-three ranked doubles players to get the nod.

Sumit Nagal, the third singles player, is expected to partner Paes, with Bopanna and Sharan forming the other men’s doubles pair. “The reason we didn’t go for the fourth doubles specialist is because we needed a back-up for Ramkumar and Prajnesh, in case either of them get injured,” Zeeshan said.

Zeeshan, meanwhile, hoped Paes, who is playing his first Asian Games since 2006, gets few tournaments under his belt before heading for the Asiad. The multiple Grand Slam winner had not played any tournament since Dubai Championships in March and Davis Cup tie in China in April, before appearing in the Hall of Fame tournament where he lost in the quarterfinals on Friday. “I was bit worried about Leander not having enough matches, he has now played in Newport so that is a good news,” said Zeeshan.

India had returned with five medals in the 2014 edition, highlighted by the mixed doubles gold won by Sania and Saketh Myneni. “Sania played a key role last time, so we will really miss her. This time Rohan will partner Ankita Raina and Paes will combine with Prarthana Thombare. Since none of our doubles combination has played together before, it makes it a bit tricky for us. With schedules being so tight, we will be reaching Palembang straight on August 16,” said Zeeshan.