He was never supposed to be the favorite heading into his first-ever brush with Olympics glory, but that didn’t stop a billion Indians from pinning their hopes on Vishnu Vardhan as he started his singles first round match against Blaz Kavcic. The hopes proved to be short-lived, though, as Vishnu went down in straight sets, losing 6-3, 6-2 to tumble out of the singles event.
The opportunity to play in the singles event was a stroke of good fortune for the Indian – he got entry into the main draw only after Philipp Kohlshreiber of Germany pulled out due to injury. Vishnu’s good fortune didn’t last long, though, as his serve was broken in the very first game of the match. It was an uphill battle for Vishnu from that moment on, as he struggled to keep up with the stronger groundstrokes of his higher-ranked opponent. The Indian did fight gamely, but when he was serving to stay in the first set at 3-5, his nerves betrayed him and he got broken to hand Kavcic the set.
The second set started on a more even keel, and Vishnu briefly raised hopes that he would put his Slovenian opponent under pressure and perhaps take the match to a deciding third set. But after holding off a bunch of break points at 1-2, Vishnu capitulated, and the result was never in doubt after that. Kavcic went on to take the set 6-2, and with it the match, and passage to the second round of the event.
This was a trial by fire for Vishnu, who just days ago didn’t even know that he’d be playing a singles match on the biggest stage of them all. He held his nerve for fairly long stretches in the match, but his inconsistent groundstrokes and lack of big-match experience proved too tough to overcome.
All is not yet lost for Vardhan – in a matter of hours, he will be taking the court again, this time pairing up with Leander Paes for the doubles first round match. He’ll be hoping to put up a much better show in that match. And so will a billion Indians.