A review of the Indian players' performance in the first week of the Australian Open
A lot was expected from the Indian contingent as the first Grand Slam of 2015 began, with nearly every draw in Melbourne being represented by at least one Indian player. And while the 2015 Australian Open has given some joy to the nationa’s fans, there has been some disappointment too.
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Here is a detailed look at the best and the worst performers among Indians so far:
Mahesh Bhupathi fails to impress
Mahesh Bhupathi’s comeback from a nine-month injury layoff was short-lived as he lost in the first round of the doubles event. He partnered Jurgen Melzer for the tournament and the pair struggled to get going in the early stages of their match against the Argentine team of Diego Schwartzman and Horacio Zeballos. Bhupathi and Melzer lost 4-6, 3-6.
It was even-stevens in the first set as both teams held serve in the first eight games. But Melzer’s serve was put under pressure in the ninth game, and while he and Bhupathi saved two break points, the Austrian netted on the third break point opportunity to give the advantage to the Argentine pair.
In the second set, Bhupathi was broken in the second game to make things difficult for the Indo-Austrian pair. They had a chance to get that break back on Zeballos' serve, but the tall southpaw came up with big serves to save both. Schwartzman and Zeballos sped to a 4-1 lead in just 19 minutes of the second set, and the one break of serve was sufficient for the Argentines to close out the match.
Bhupathi teamed up with Jarmila Gajdosova in the mixed doubles draw. However, the Indo-Australian pair lost to Hao-Ching Chan and Jamie Murray 6-4, 6-7 (7), [8-10] in the first round, thus signalling a disappointing end to the Indian’s comeback Slam.
Bhupathi spent much of last year setting up the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), and he came to Melbourne after losing in the second round of Chennai Open, so the rustiness is understandable.
Mixed results for Leander Paes
The new team of Leander Paes and Raven Klaasen won their first title in Auckland and were high on confidence coming into the Australian Open. The Indo-South African pair won their first match Down Under with relative ease as they brushed aside the challenge of Americans Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (6).
But Paes, who completes 25 years on the ATP tour this year, had a tough outing in the second round against the Italian team of Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini. While he and Klaasen won the opening set 6-2 with two breaks of serve, the second set was a close contest. The Italian team ultimately came out on top with a solitary break of serve.
The No. 10 seeds were no match for Bolelli and Fognini in the final set as a slew of unforced errors cost them the set 6-1 and with it the match.
Paes teamed up with Martina Hingis in the mixed doubles and had a successful start to the campaign with a 6-2, 7-6 (2) win over the Aussie pairing of Sam Thompson and Masa Jovanovic. The No. 7 seeds work well as a unit and that was reinforced in their second round match against Pablo Andujar and Anabel Medina Garrigues. The Indo-Swiss pair are into the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-1 win over the unseeded Spanish pair.
Sania still in the hunt for silverware
Sania Mirza and Su-Wei Hsieh could not have asked for a worse start to their Grand Slam campaign this year as they lost in the second round to the unseeded pair of Gabriela Dabrowski and Alicja Rosolska in straight sets.
The Indo-Chinese Taipei pair came to Melbourne after clinching the Sydney Open, and they beat the pair of Maria Irigoyen and Romina Oprandi in the first round with the loss of just two games. But they came unstuck in their second match, which means Indian fans will have to wait longer for the Hyderabadi to lift her first doubles Grand Slam title.
In the mixed doubles, however, Mirza and her partner Bruno Soares reached the quarterfinals after notching up impreesive wins in their first two matches. As the reigning US Open champions, Mirza and Soares are on course for back-to-back Major wins.
Meanwhile, Rohan Bopanna and Daniel Nestor faltered in the second round after losing to Feliciano Lopez and Max Mirnyi 7-5, 6-3. Much was expected of the new team after they won their first title in Sydney last week, but all of it came to nought. There was heart-break for Bopanna in the mixed doubles as well as he and Barbara Zahlavova Strycova lost against the third seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor in the opening round.