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Sania Mirza, Leander Paes skip Asian Games to revive rankings

NEW DELHI: India will field a second-string tennis contingent in this month’s Asian Games after allowing frontline players, including Leander Paes and Sania Mirza, to play on the professional tours instead to revive their rankings.

India’s top singles player Somdev Devvarman has already announced he will not defend the singles and men’s doubles gold medals he won four years ago in Guangzhou, China, citing the same reason.

“Special circumstances have developed where it is necessary for the players to participate in ATP and WTA events to protect their rankings and… qualify for the yearend World Masters,” All India Tennis Association (AITA) president Anil Khanna said in a statement on Wednesday.

Khanna did not elaborate on any late replacements. AITA secretary Bharat Oza and coach Zeeshan Ali could not be reached for comments either.

Veteran Paes, winner of eight men’s doubles and six mixed doubles Grand Slam titles, has slipped to 35 in doubles rankings and wants to play in three ATP Tour events that clash with the Sept. 19-Oct. 4 Games in Incheon.

Mirza, who won the US Open mixed doubles title on Friday partnering Brazilian Bruno Soares, pulled out to play in two WTA Tour events instead to keep alive her and partner Cara Black’s hopes of making the WTA season-ending championship in Singapore.

The AITA has also allowed Davis Cupper and doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna to play in two ATP Tour events that coincided with the Asian Games.

“Considering the very significant and important requirement of the players, the AITA has decided to… allow them to play ATP/WTA tournaments so that they can have a respectable opportunity to represent the nation in the World Championships to be held at the end of the year,” Khanna added.

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