The Indian pair of Sania Mirza and Prarthana Thombare lost their first round match against Zhang Shuai and Shuai Peng today, 6-7, 7-5, 5-7. Taking the first set to a tiebreak, Mirza and Thombare put up a tenacious fight to progress in the Olympics, and even took the second set off their Chinese rivals, but were ousted in the end by a powerful side.
Thombare, making her Olympic debut, had partnered Mirza to good effect before – the pair won bronze at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, but this time it was simply not enough. Although 22-year-old Thombare got some good strong serves in, she, and her World No. 1 partner, fell short to a relentless attack.
Interestingly, it was the young Thombare who showed fewer nerves than her partner, effectively holding serve on a number of occasions to help the side to a closer loss than they may otherwise have faced.
After they lost the first set, the Indians raced to a 4-1 lead in the second – any many would not have been remiss in believing the pair could turn the match on its head.
The Chinese pair, however, fought back resiliently as the Indians were left unable to close the set out, and managed to level the sets at 5-5 in the end as India squandered set point and what would eventually be a valuable opportunity to build back some momentum.
Zhang and Peng were able to capitalize on their long rallies, holding on for some valuable points that would eventually win them the match, coming back stirringly in the third set as they refused to allow Mirza and Thombare to build momentum any further than they had in the second.
It was an unfortunate day for Indian fans, with Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna knocked out earlier in the night by Poland’s Marcin Matkowski and Lukasz Kubot. The Indians lost in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6, going to a second set tiebreak but unable to progress any further.
India will now rely on a mixed doubles fight if they are to have any hopes for a medal in tennis. Can Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza find success? That match will be in a few days’ time.