Rio de Janeiro: World No 1 doubles player Sania Mirza’s campaign in the women’s event came to an end as she and her partner Prarthana Thombare lost their first round match against the Chinese pair of Shuai Zhang and Shuai Peng.
Zhang and Peng won a closely contested match 7-6 (8-6) 5-7 7-5 that lasted two hours and 44 minutes as the Indian duo did put up a stiff resistance. Indian challenge in tennis now remains confined to Sania and Rohan Bopanna in the mixed doubles the only event where they are supposed to have realistic medal chance. Had his partner been close in terms of quality, Sania would have taken India home as she shouldered bulk of the responsibility.
Prarthana, considered to be the weak link, showed fighting skills but the quality was simply not there. It was her poor service that cost India the match as she lost her serve on multiple occasions. In the first set that lasted 70 minutes, the serving was erratic for both the Indian as well as Chinese pairs as they traded breaks thrice. The set went to tie-breaker and the seasoned Chinese pair clinched it at 8-6.
The second set saw Indian combo take a 2-0 and subsequently 3-1 lead but the opponents came back well to make it 5-5. The Chinese duo then lost their serve as Sania-Prarthana won the set 7-5 in 49 minutes.
In the decider, the Indians conceded an early break as the Chinese pair went 3-1 up but Sania’s booming returns ensured that the Indians were back in even keel to make it 3-3. In the 9th game, the Indians were broken again as Chinese pair served for the match at 5-4. But there was more drama in store as they were broken to level scoreline 5-5. But the Indians again lost their serve before the Chinese pair closed the match in the 12th game.
Earlier, Leander Paes’ dreams of winning a second Olympic medal went up in smoke as he and Rohan Bopanna made an inglorious exit in the opening round of the men’s doubles competition, losing in straight sets to the Polish pair of Marcin Matkowski and Lukasz Kubot 4-6 6-7 (6-8). Playing in his record seventh and probably his last Olympics, Paes — a bronze medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Games saw his campaign get over in only 84 minutes as not for once did the Indian pair look like having forged a winning combination.