An Olympic Wild Card Case For Sunitha Rao

Hello again it’s Levar updating you on some of the ongoing initiatives for The Global Tennis Foundation. Most recently we have been supporting and promoting Sunitha Rao, who is currently the No. 2 ranked woman from India and is aspiring to play in the Beijing Olympics this August. She recently won a women’s 75k Challenger in doubles, and is looking to gain some momentum to be accepted in the draw at the Olympics.

Sunitha was born to Indian parents and raised in the United States (Jersey City, N.J and Bradenton, Fla.). She had a wonderful junior career and turned that into a consistent top 200 player in both singles and doubles. Global Tennis has been supporting her as she tries to achieve her goal of representing India in the Games. She first represented India in Fed Cup play in 2007 and has played eight ties for India posting a 5-6 record (3-2 in doubles).

Sunitha will not receive a direct entry into the Olympic singles or doubles competition, so we are hoping that the International Tennis Federation will award Sunitha one of its “ITF Places” or wild cards into the event so that India can be properly represented in the Games. Her current WTA Tour ranking is No. 155 in singles and No. 111 in doubles (which places her outside – not just outside – but respectfully outside of the cut-offs for entry). It is no secret that India is one of the most important emerging markets in tennis (the WTA Tour and its excellent CEO Larry Scott is doing all that it can to make the tour event in Bangalore as big and prestigious as it can). Sunitha’s countrywomen Sania Mirza is a huge magnet for publicity and exposure for tennis in India, the world’s second most populous country with over 1 billion citizens. Sania (currently ranked No. 32 in singles and No. 20 in doubles) is currently off the tour with a right wrist injury and there is some doubt that she will even be fit enough for the Games. Should she not be ready to post for the Beijing Games, India would be without a female representative in the singles or doubles draw. This is why we are hoping the ITF will recognize Sunitha’s strong results – and the importance of having Indian women represented at the Games – and be kind enough to award Sunitha a singles or doubles wild card into the event. If Sania is fit for singles in Beijing, we hope that a wild card can be given to Sania and Sunitha in doubles. Sania and Sunitha are great role models for young Indians – particularly young Indian women – and their participation in the Olympics will help continue to fuel the fires of increased interest in tennis in India and in Asia in general.

“It would mean the world to me to represent India in the Olympics. I have dreamed about it my whole life,” said Sunitha. “The popularity of tennis is really growing a lot in India, which is a great thing, especially with the popularity of Sania Mirza. So many youngsters, especially girls, are taking up tennis now, and it’s a great thing to see!”