The Indian mixed doubles pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna today lost their bronze medal match against the Czech combine of Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek. Mirza and Bopanna, seeded fourth in the draw at Rio 2016, tumbled in straight sets – 6-1, 7-5 to their powerful Czech rivals, who have 4 Grand Slam doubles titles between them.
Mirza and Bopanna were thoroughly outplayed in the first set, unable to make crucial returns that cost them points – and games - repeatedly.
Between Stepanek’s backhand and Hradecka’s forehand, the Czechs set up an almost unassailable attack, with some flashes of brilliance from the Indians helping them puzzle the Czechs, albeit temporarily.
Known for her quick reflexes and strong forehand, Mirza for a long time seemed like the majority participant in this match as the Indian pair appeared to lack the coordination they needed to win today. Conversely, that was one thing Stepanek and Hradecka displayed throughout the game. Both Mirza and Bopanna were made to scramble across court as the Czechs brought out not just a powerful, but a wily game tonight.
Following that poor start, India regrouped somewhat in the second set, but got broken in the first game of that set as Bopanna double faulted – something he would do on multiple occasions tonight, perhaps crucially so for the team.
The big-serving Hradecka was more than an able foil for Sania’s power serve, and returned every good shot off the Indian with ease. The Czechs were by far the superior team not only on returns but on play tonight, and significantly more coordinated than the Indian side.
The Indian pair showed some flashes of brilliance at the net as the pair set up and coordinated points on a number of occasions. Unfortunately for them, however, those were few and far between. Mirza and Bopanna picked up some speed and momentum as the second set progressed, and the two also got a few free points courtesy of Hradecka double faulting on a couple of occasions.
All in all, the Czechs were not only the more powerful team, the key also lay in the fact that they were also the better coordinated side on display here. The Indian team will also wonder if most of tonight’s grunt work was carried on the shoulders of Sania Mirza alone, and this may have been the key in the loss tonight.
India committed 6 double faults in their loss today, but the Czechs were simply the superior team here, taking India to break point on ten occasions, successfully breaking 5; India took their opponents to break points four times, managing two. Six double faults, largely down to Bopanna, lost crucial points for the team, with the bronze medal defeat of India coming in straight sets in a quick 71-minute showdown.
This marks Hradecka’s second Olympic medal - she won bronze at London 2012 with partner Andrea Hlavackova, losing to Venus and Serena Williams of the USA.