Tennis fans saw the first day of play for the sport at Rio 2016, with a number of men’s and women’s doubles matches kicking off early in the evening, continuing with the men’s and women’s singles for a handful of top 10 players.
India take a beating
India’s hopes at the Olympic Games all but ended yesterday, with Leander Paes and Sania Mirza crashing out of the men’s and women’s doubles respectively. This is the second time in 2016 that Paes and Bopanna played as a doubles pair after their Davis Cup match against South Korea in Chandigarh earlier this year.
Given that the pair had been victorious then, many had expected a strong performance from the Indians, especially given the presence of the 17-time Grand Slam winner, an experienced Olympian with a medal under his belt.
Unfortunately, the Olympics were also marred by the alleged ongoing spat between the pair, which is said to have reached a head with media outlets claiming Paes had refused to share lodgings with Bopanna.
The pair would lose in straight sets to Marcin Matkowski and Lukasz Kubot of Poland 6-4, 7-6.
Elsewhere, Sania Mirza and partner Prarthana Thombare, who partnered each other to bronze at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, were unable to recreate the magic at Rio, losing in three sets to the strong Chinese pair of Zhang Shuai and Shuai Peng.
Mirza and Thombare put up a tenacious fight, with the 22-year-old Olympic debutante, a Solapur native, holding nerve and serve to help team India take the second set. Unfortunately, it did not go further than that as the Chinese pair played a resurgent game in the third set to steal the win.
Top players tumble - with women’s singles taking a big hit
A number of the top seeds crashed out quickly from the tournament yesterday. Among them was fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland. The 5th-ranked women’s singles player was outclassed thoroughly by Saisai Zheng of China, with the 64th ranked player beating Radwanska in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5.
Venus Williams was ousted from the tournament as well, with Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens taking a surprise upset of the American. The 36-year-old older Williams sister has been in form of late, managing a strong semi-final finish at Wimbledon as the oldest player in the draw. She is also in the process of dealing with an autoimmune disorder, making her return more impressive, and with younger sister, World No. 1 Serena, the pair recently won the women’s doubles at Wimbledon.
Although she has crashed out of the singles, Williams still has the doubles to fall back on, and that is an event where the sisters remain firm favourites for Gold.
Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic also crashed out of the Olympics. The former World No. 1 tumbled to Spanish former top-10 player Carla Suarez Navarro, who is seeded ninth at the tournament, although the Serb put in a fight to eventually lose 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Timea Bacsinszky, Switzerland’s sole hope at the singles following the withdrawal of Stan Wawrinka, also crashed out of the tournament, losing to the lower-ranked Zhang Shuai in three sets.
That leaves Switzerland with only the women's doubles as a medal hope, but that is a strong hope, given the country will be represented by Martina Hingis and Bacszinsky.
Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov was knocked out of the tournament by Croat ace Marin Cilic in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4.
American talent Jack Sock was not as lucky, losing out to Taro Daniel of Japan. Sock has been revealed to be struggling with walking pneumonia, however.
Kei Nishikori, who many have pipped for a medal at Rio 2016, took an easy win over Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas today, while compatriot Yuichi Sugita beat American Brian Baker, giving Japan three singles victories on Day 1 alone.
Tall French ace Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Malek Jaziri in a tough three-setter.
The mixed doubles draws will be out later this week, with the combine of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna now the only hope for a medal for India at the tennis.
Women’s top seed and defending champion Serena Williams will play her opener tonight, as will men’s top seeds Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal. Djokovic’s match in particular promises to be exciting, with the Serb taking on Olympic medallist Juan Martin del Potro.
An in-form Murray is the defending champion here and will look to build on the momentum from his recent Wimbledon win, and will take on Viktor Troicki tonight.