French Open: Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna shoulder Indian aspirations in Paris
The absence of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi from the doubles draw at the French Open this year means that partisan Indian interests will be held together by the performances of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna this fortnight. Divij Sharan is around too, but he is only a second alternate and could only participate if there are a couple of late withdrawals.
Mahesh is reaching the end of the tether as a player and has preferred to sit out the French Open. He is expected to draw the curtains on his illustrious career with a final cameo at the Wimbledon, before plunging head long into the many business interests that consume his time.
Meanwhile, Leander is dealing with family and personal issues that have compromised his schedule on the tour. One can only wish the star luck as he battles his ex-wife for the custody of his child. At this time it is not even certain if Paes can be back in time to play Wimbledon.
Sania has been the runner up in Paris in 2011, when she and her partner at the time – Elena Vesnina – finished second best to Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. A year later, Mirza partnered with Mahesh Bhupathi to claim the mixed doubles title in Paris, one of the highlights of her career.
She is playing both the women’s doubles and mixed doubles this year – with Cara Black and Horia Tecau respectively. While Black and Mirza have enjoyed a reasonable season so far, they will need to scale up their performances to ensure a deep run in the women’s doubles draw.
The pair reached the quarters at the Australian Open and have recently won the title in Oeiras, Portugal. Black is ranked 10th in doubles, while Sania has gained a spot to go upto ninth in the rankings. The Indian has yet to win a grand slam title in women’s doubles.
Strangely, the combination of Sania and Tecau are not seeded at the French Open, this despite reaching the finals of the Australian Open in January this year. As a result they have a tough opener against the fourth seeded Kveta Peschke and Marcin Matkowski.
But if they get past that stiff test, there is no saying how far this Indo-Romanian duo can go at this year’s edition of the premier clay event. Sania already has two mixed doubles grand slam titles to her name.
Bopanna and his partner Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi are seeded sixth at the event and open their campaign for a maiden grand slam title against the dangerous pair of Stephane Robert and Ivo Karlovic. Robert is a French player who will carry the crowd with him and Karlovic is dealing in aces spelling early danger for the Indo-Pak duo.
Bopanna and Qureshi will need to attack Robert on his second serve and find the spaces to pile on some pressure early in their match to avoid an early exit. However, the fact that Karlovic and Robert are not regular partners might just work in the favour of the seasoned doubles methods of the sixth seeded pair.