New Delhi: Ahead of the Billie Jean King Cup — formerly Fed Cup — tie against Latvia on April 16-17, India’s tennis ace Sania Mirza got a morale boost as she was included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports on Wednesday.
The winner of six doubles Grand Slam titles, Sania had opted out of the scheme in 2017 but the 34-year-old was selected during the 56th meeting of the Mission Olympic Cell.
The only Indian female player to win a WTA title, Sania has qualified for the postponed Tokyo Games based on the system of protected ranking. Though the Indian is currently ranked 157th in the world, Sania enjoys a special ranking of No. 9 as she had applied to the WTA for her ranking to be secured when she took a pregnancy break after the China Open in October 2017.
The Indian is training with compatriot Ankita Raina in Dubai for the Billie Jean King Cup World Group Play-off tie against Latvia, and the duo will fly out to join team-mates Karman Kaur Thandi, Zeel Desai, and Rutuja Bhosale in the next couple of days.
India made it to the World Group Play-offs for the first time by virtue of finishing second in the Asia/Oceania Group I tie, which took place in the Emirates in March 2020, while Latvia were beaten by the United States in their group.
India are unlikely to have an easy outing as Latvia will be fielding a strong team that has the likes of former French Open champion and current world No. 54 Jelena Ostapenko, besides 2018 US Open semi-finalist Anastasija Sevastova, who was ranked world No. 11 at her peak. Latvia had given the Serena Williams-led United States team a tough time in the 2020 Qualifiers before losing 2-3.