The Union sports ministry on Saturday reportedly said that Wimbledon women's doubles champion Sania Mirza has been recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.
PTI reported quoting sports secretary Ajit Sharan that Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has recommended the tennis ace for the top honour for an Indian sportsperson. He, however, made it clear that the "final decision to give the honour rests with the awards committee".
Sania, who won her career's first ever women's doubles grand slam title with Swiss partner Martina Hingis this year, has already emerged as the world number one in the category.
According to a Hindustan Times report, Sania is among the 12 contenders in race for the prestigious award, including Indian hockey captain Sardara Singh, squash player Dipika Pallikal, discus thrower Vikas Gowda, sprinter Tintu Luka and archer Abhishek Verma.
The HT report claimed that the sports ministry decided to forward Sania's name to the awards committee on Friday despite the fact that the All India Tennis Association (AITA) missed the 30 April deadline to send the nomination by more than two months. The ministry used clause 5.3 under the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award Scheme to nominate Sania, the report said.
The announcement of Khel Ratna has been marred by controversies for a couple of years after some leading athletes challenged the selection based on the final recommendation made by the awards committee. Famous discus thrower Krishna Poonia had in 2013 challenged the award of the honour to shooter Ronjan Sodhi. The award was not conferred on anyone in 2014.