The US Open mixed doubles draw which was released on Tuesday has unfortunately not been kind to Indian tennis stars. All three Indians – Sania Mirza, Leander Paes, and Rohan Bopanna – have been stacked in the top half of the draw.
That will give the chance to only one Indian to reach the summit clash in the final Slam of the year, preventing an encore of the French Open final where both Mirza and Paes featured on opposite sides of the net.
This time, the top seeds Mirza and her Croatian partner Ivan Dodig could meet the defending champions Paes and Martina Hingis as early as the quarter-finals, with both the teams being placed in the same quarter.
The two pairs are tied at one win apiece with Mirza-Dodig winning in the Australian Open quarters while Paes-Hingis prevailed in the French Open final. But before they can set up their much-awaited third Grand Slam meeting of the year, they have to contend with a couple of dangerous teams.
The top-seeded Indo-Croatian duo starts their campaign against Americans Taylor Townsend and Donald Young. Even though they are less experienced than Mirza-Dodig, they can prove to be a handful after having reached the semi-finals of their home Slam two years ago.
In round 2, Mirza and Dodig square off against the winner of the match between Belinda Bencic/Martin Klizan and Barbora Krejcikova/Marin Draganja. The 19-year-old Krejcikova was one-half of the women’s doubles team that inflicted a shock defeat on Mirza and Hingis in the French Open third round this year.
Suffice to say, the Indian needs to be on the alert.
The French Open winners Hingis and Paes too open against an American pair – Sachia Vickery and Frances Tiafoe which they are expected to easily overcome. But things can get tougher from next round as they run into the seventh seeds Coco Vandeweghe and Rajeev Ram.
The latter won a mixed doubles silver medal at the Rio Olympics, partnering Venus Williams where they beat Indians Mirza and Bopanna in the semi-finals. Vandeweghe is no slouch either having reached the Australian Open mixed doubles final this year.
Mirza or Paes can meet Bopanna in semis
Rohan Bopanna, the third Indian in the mixed doubles draw, is placed in the second quarter. The 36-year-old has teamed up with Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski, who is ranked 43rd in women’s doubles.
The Indo-Canadian combine is up against the young US team of Jamie Loeb and Noah Rubin in their round 1 following which they can cross swords with the sixth seeds Lukasz Kubot and Andrea Hlavackova.
In the quarter-finals, they are likely to face fourth seeds Raquel Atawo and Jean-Julien Rojer. The semi-final match will be interesting from the Indian fans’ point of view as it presents the prospect of Bopanna locking horns with either Paes or Mirza.
If any of the Indian players reach the final, they will have to counter the likes of either second seeds Bruno Soares/Yaroslava Shvedova or third seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands /Horia Tecau. Each of these four players has won multiple Grand Slams and will undoubtedly present a stiff challenge.