Dubai: Ankita Raina, who was instrumental in India’s progress to the Fed Cup play-offs at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium in the first week of March, has been nominated alongside Divij Sharan by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) for the prestigeous Arjuna award.
Winners of medals at the Asian Games, Raina and Sharan will be joined by former Davis Cup coach Nandan Bal, whose name has been forwarded for the Dhyan Chand honour (highest recognition for coaches).
“I feel these recognitions keep the fire alive and motivate me to work even harder,” Raina told Gulf News from Pune.
“I consider these as milestones in my path towards excellence. Getting nominated for such a high honour definitely feels good, but I have miles to go still,” she added.
The 27-year-old had won a women’s singles bronze medal at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games while also coming up with a strong performance in the Fed Cup to ensure India’s qualification to the World Group play-offs for the first time-ever.
The Delhi-born Sharan had, meanwhile, won the gold medal in the men’s doubles at 2018 Jakarta along with fellow Davis Cupper, Rohan Bopanna. He also became India’s top doubles player in October 2019 before Bopanna reclaimed the position.
The 34-year-old Sharan also won two ATP titles during the 2019 season, namely the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune (along with partner Bopanna) and the St. Petersburg Open (with Igor Zelenay).
Zeeshan Ali - just one of three tennis coaches who have bagged the Dhyan Chand award so far (SP Misra and Nitin Kirtane are the other two) – who is currently the Davis Cup coach fully backed Sharan’s nomination. “
“Divij is a great team player and he is very hard working and disciplined. That makes him a true asset to our team. He is thoroughly deserving of the Arjuna Award,” Zeeshan said.
“He is soft spoken and one of the nicest and respectful persons I know on the Tour. Unfortunately, his performances most of the time have been overlooked because most of the focus has been more on his current doubles teammates like Leander Paes and Bopanna or some of the other singles players on our team,” he added.
Bopanna was the last tennis player to get the Arjuna award in 2018. Started in 1961, the Arjuna Awards are given by the Government of India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in recognition of outstanding achievement in sports.
The award carries a cash prize of Rs 500,000 (Dhs 24,300), a bronze statue and a scroll. The other major awards in the field of sport are the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the Dronacharya Award and the Dyanchand Award.