The Indian women's doubles duo of Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina have bowed out of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics in the first round. Mirza and Raina suffered a 6-0, 6-7(0), [8-10] defeat at the hands of Ukraine's Nadiia and Lyudmyla Kichenok on Sunday.
The pair were looking to follow in the footsteps of Sumit Nagal, who came through a tough three-set victory over Denis Istomin on the opening day. But they had a complete breakdown in the second half of the match, losing 17 points on the trot at one stage to go down 0-7 in the third-set shootout.
It was always going to be tough to recover from there, and although Mirza and Raina did well to get back to 8-9, it was a case of too little too late.
It was a different story in the first set, as Sania Mirza/Ankita Raina delivered a bagel
Playing against the Ukrainian duo in the first match on Court 11 at the Ariake Tennis Facility on Sunday, Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina raced to a first-set bagel. Both women were absolutely dominant on serve and didn't give their opponents any look at break points in the opening set.
Some solid returns also earned them as many as five break points, of which they took three. The Indians kept the Ukranians onto the backfoot throughout; deep forehands and sharp volleys at the net had the Kichenok sisters gasping for answers.
A second-set collapse leads to the undoing of the Indian pair
Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina were forced to raise their games in the second set as both Nadiia and Lyudmyla Kichenok came out stronger on serve. The two pairs held serve with ease early on, before the Indians struck.
Mirza and Raina showed immense strength of character in the marathon sixth game, eking out a crucial break of serve on their fifth opportunity. Mirza's big forehand return found the corner and Raina clobbered another big return right at Kichenok on the break point to seal the game.
But the Kichenok twins fought back well to break back with Mirza serving for the match at 5-3. They then took the set in a tiebreaker 7-0, as the Indians struggled to keep the ball in. Mirza and Raina produced eight unforced errors and as many as 28 forced errors in the second set.
Mirza and Raina also lost the next 7 points to go down [0-7] in the shootout. They managed to steady the ship in the up-and-down third set, leveling the score at 8-8, but the Kichenok twins took the next two points to hand the Indians a 0-6, 6-7(0) [10-8] defeat.