Australian Open Diary: A look at how the Indians performed on Day 10
Day 10 is popular as the Quarterfinals Day at the Australian Open. But this, of course, usually refers to the matches in the singles draws of the men’s and women’s tournaments. Sometimes, the other titles on offer at a Grand Slam tend to be forgotten under the glitz and glamour of the singles championships.
Today, for example, while the likes of Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic are fighting it out on Rod Laver Arena, there are other intense tennis contests in the juniors and doubles tournaments taking place on the outside courts. It also provides a good opportunity to view the remaining Indian players at the Australian Open, who are all in action today.
Sumit Nagal – the Youngster
First up on the outside Show Court is Sumit Nagal, competing in the third round of the Junior Boys Singles. 17-year-old Nagal is one of the brightest future prospects in Indian tennis, and it is easy to see why. He is a smooth, compact player, with a particularly nice slice and effective groundstrokes. Ranked 26th among juniors in the world, he has already scored an upset win over the 7th seed Michael Mmoh in this tournament.
Today, however, things are not going his way. He is up against local junior Marc Polmans. The Aussie has an effective net game, and uses it to full advantage against Nagal. His forays to the net allow Nagal to display a few sparkling passing shots, but gradually, Polmans gains control of the match.
There is something vaguely Fabio Fognini about Nagal. The slight build, the slow, laidback walk between points, even the way he sets up for a shot, all bring the volatile Italian to mind. There also seems to be a temper lurking underneath. Nagal waves his arms in frustration as the wind makes his serve go awry. He does not like a call from the chair umpire, and thumps the ball down in irritation. After an unforced error, he makes as if to fling his racket and then checks himself, channelling his inner Kyrgios.
The final scoreline reads 6-1, 6-1 in favour of the Australian. Nagal’s encouraging run in the year’s first Grand Slam has come to an end. His plans for 2015 include playing more senior events, and beginning the transition to the pro tour. Experiences such as these will only hold him in good stead.
Sania Mirza – the Experienced
Meanwhile, Sania Mirza is on the other Show Court playing the Mixed Doubles quarterfinal with her partner, Bruno Soares. The Indo-Brazilian pair is the top seed in the competition, and they are playing like it. They take less than an hour to dismantle the Aussie combination of Casey Dellacqua and John Peers 6-2, 6-2.
Mirza and Soares are fresh off their US Open Mixed Doubles title last year. They form a combination that holds a lot of promise. Given Mirza’s previous success at the Australian Open, a title with Mahesh Bhupathi and two runner-up finishes, it may not be fanciful to expect a run for the championship again from Sania Mirza.
Leander Paes – the Veteran
The final match on Rod Laver Arena tonight is another Mixed Doubles quarterfinal featuring the evergreen stalwart of Indian tennis, Leander Paes, still going strong at 41 years of age. His latest doubles partner is the Swiss Miss, Martina Hingis, and they seem to be having the time of their lives.
It is easy to see why their match is scheduled on centre court. They are both stars with charisma, play some entertaining tennis, and crack jokes between themselves. In the meanwhile, they also win a tennis match 6-3, 6-1 against Andrea Hlavackova and Alexander Peya, to move into the semi-finals.
Both Sania Mirza and Leander Paes are now just one victory away from facing each other in the Mixed Doubles finals. If that does happen, Mirza will be aiming for her fourth Grand Slam Mixed Doubles title, while Paes will be looking at title number seven.
Sumit Nagal, Sania Mirza and Leander Paes. This trio, along with India’s only singles main draw contestant Yuki Bhambri, covers an entire spectrum of generations from ages 17 to 41. After today, however, only two remain in contention at this year’s Australian Open. Can they make it a successful tournament for India this time around? All hopes will rest on Mirza and Paes making it to the final Sunday.