Australian Open 2016: India's doubles chances
Five Indians will be in action across men's and women's doubles at the Australian Open. Here's a look at the Indian prospects.
Fresh off winning their 11th title together and 30th match in a row at the Apia International in Sydney, the World No. 1 women’s doubles pair of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis will look to carry on with their stupendous form at the Australian Open.
The Indo-Swiss duo won the last two Grand Slams at Wimbledon and the US Open, and the 2016 Australian Open title will certainly be on their minds – which should put them closer to completing a career Grand Slam as a team.
The draw looks favourable for Hingis and Mirza, who start off against the unseeded Brazilian-Colombian duo of Teliana Pereira and Mariana Duque-Marino. In Round 2, their probable opponents will be 2014 Shenzhen titlists Lyudmyla Kichenok and Nadiia Kichenok.
They do not face a seed till the 3rd round where they will clash against the winners of the match between the 14th seeds Kiki Bertens/Johanna Larsson and Svetlana Kuznetsova/Roberta Vinci.
The sixth-seeded American pair of Raquel Atawo and Abigail Spears are the top-ranked team’s likely quarter-final opponents. Mirza-Hingis beat them handily thrice last year and shouldn’t have any problem in that match.
The biggest challenge for the top seeds could come in the semi-finals in the form of third seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic. The French combine were up a set and a break in last week’s Sydney final before Mirza/Hingis clawed back. There’s every chance that the Indo-Swiss pair might feel fatigued after their recent exploits and Garcia/Mladenovic will not hesitate to capitalize on it.
The Australian Open men’s doubles draw, meanwhile, features four Indians – Rohan Bopanna, Leander Paes, Purav Raja and Mahesh Bhupathi – of which the ninth ranked Bopanna is undoubtedly the biggest Indian hope.
He will be eager to rebound from back-to-back final losses at last year’s World Tour Finals and this year’s Sydney International.
Since joining forces in April last year, Bopanna and his Romanian partner Florin Mergea have been pretty impressive. Especially at the Grand Slams, they have got some confident-boosting performances which include semi-finals at Wimbledon and quarter-finals at the US Open.
At the 2016 Australian Open, the fourth seeds are on the same side of the draw as the reigning French Open champions Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo while the Bryan Brothers are on the opposite side. Bopanna and Mergea begin against the local pair of Nick Kyrgios and Omar Jasika and the first seeds they can face are the 14th seeds Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi in the third round.
The likely quarter-final rivals for Bopanna and Mergea are US Open winners Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Dodig and Melo are of course their potential semi-final opponents but Bopanna-Mergea can be upbeat about their chances as they upset the Brazilian-Croatian combine in their very last meeting at the World Tour Finals in November.
The 103rd-ranked Purav Raja is also in the bottom half of the draw and he has paired up with ace-king Ivo Karlovic. The Croatian retired in his first round singles match on Monday due to a knee pain and will hope to recover fully by the time the doubles matches start. The Indian-Croatian combine is up against the Korean-Moldovan duo of Hyeon Chung and Radu Albot.
In the top half of the draw, the unseeded Leander Paes and Jeremy Chardy square off against the 12th seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. Paes, whose ranking has plummeted to 50th, has won just one match this season and would be looking for more positive results at Melbourne Park.
The other Indian in the same half is Paes’ former partner, Mahesh Bhupathi. The former World No. 1 is down to 754th in the world rankings after playing on the Tour intermittently due to his promotions of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL). This season, the 41-year-old has played at the Chennai Open and the Bangkok Challenger in order to get some valuable match practice ahead of the year’s first Slam.
He has teamed up with Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller and they start off against the unseeded local duo of Alex Bolt and Andrew Whittington. The road gets tougher from there as the third-seeded Bryan Brothers loom large in the second round.