New Delhi: Following a string of strong performances, Indian tennis ace Sania Mirza has emerged as the frontrunner to be awarded the country’s highest sporting honour — Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.
“Sania’s name was initially recommended for the Padma Bhushan before Wimbledon. That was the time of filing the applications. But the ministry then recommended that we should nominate her for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna,” a top All India Tennis Association (AITA) source told IANS on Saturday. Sania also won the gold medal and the bronze medal in the mixed and women’s doubles categories in the 2014 Asian Games and these two performances have also been taken it to account.
It has been understood that the ministry recommended the Hyderabadi’s name to the Awards Panel which will take the final call within a few days. However, considering that the ministry recommended to AITA to nominate Sania, the tennis star can be termed as the favourite to bag the honour ahead of the likes of squash star Dipika Pallikal, discus thrower Vikas Gowda and hockey captain Sardar Singh. The 28-year-old has won a number of tournaments this year but her most notable achievement was winning the women’s doubles title with Swiss veteran Martina Hingis at Wimbledon in July.
The Hyderabadi has also received the Arjuna award in 2004 while two years later she was awarded India’s fourth highest civilian honour — Padma Shri. Padma Bhushan is the nation’s third highest civilian honour. She has also won the mixed doubles titles at Australia Open (2009), French Open (2012) and US Open (2014). She is currently the world’s No.1 ranked doubles player.