Maharashtra Open 2018: Defending Champions Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan crash out in the quarters
When the four doubles players entered the centre court of the Balewadi stadium in Pune, it was no longer Rohan Bopanna/Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan vs Pierre-Hueges Herbert/Gilles Simon for the crowd. It was India vs France, and they got behind their home team with loud cheers from the very first point of the match.
There were no individual cheers for the Indian players, but a roar of "Cmon India!" came in from the crowd consistently throughout the match.
However, the tremendous support from those gathered at the stadium was not enough to get the Indians over the line, as they lost in straight sets with a disappointing scoreline of 6-2, 6-4.
The pair started off in a nightmarish fashion, getting broken in the very first game of the match. The French pair had both played their singles games before coming into the match, but did not look fatigued in the slightest as they consolidated the break with ease. They retained their ascendency throughout the first set and broke Bopanna in the last game yet again to leap to 6-2.
It looked like their time on the court initially had done more good than harm for the Frenchmen, as they seemed up and ready for the task at hand from the word go. Their serving was immaculate and their deft netplay left no room for error for Bopanna and Nedunchezhiyan.
The clinical break to take the first set enabled Herbert to serve ahead in the second. He held with ease at 40-15. Bopanna matched him toe to toe, and in fact, went a step further to claim a love hold.
Veteran Simon followed suit, but youngster Nedunchezhiyan was put under pressure in his service game. He was taken to deuce, but a netted shot from the French pair helped the hosts get out of trouble. The set was tied at 2-2.
The pattern continued till the very last game of the match. The Frenchmen finally managed to pierce through Neduchezhiyan's serve to win the match 6-2, 6-4. The second set was tighter and more closely contested, but the Indian pair clearly lacked their characteristic zing in the overall match.
Bopanna struggled at the baseline, and while Neduchezhiyan was trying hard, his inexperience was exposed in crucial junctions of the contest. With the pair's exit, Yuki Bhambri and Divij Sharan remain the last hope for India in the tournament.