Rio Olympics 2016, Tennis: What went wrong for Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna?
Mirza and Bopanna weren't able to replicate their form from the earlier rounds when it mattered the most
India’s heartbreak at Rio continued as the pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna lost in straight sets to the Czech pair of Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka in the bronze medal play-off and extended the nation’s wait for a medal at Rio. India were never really in the match from the beginning itself as both Mirza and Bopanna made some silly errors and Radek Stepanek’s volleys and net play combined with Hradecka’s brilliant forehand helped the Czechs take the first set 6-1.
However, India began the second set well and were 3-1 up before the Czechs came back and thanks to a couple of unforced errors and double faults from the Indians, won the set 7-5 and the bronze medal. The Indian duo who hadn’t lost a single set prior to the semis, lost the game in straight sets. After this match, one question will definitely be on everyone’s lips: “What went wrong for the pair after making such an optimistic start to the tournament?”
One can only wonder what went wrong as both Mirza and Bopanna had faced the likes of Sam Stosur and Andy Murray in their opening two matches and won both those matches in straight sets. Even in the semi-finals against the American pair of Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram, the Indians won the first set convincingly and were poised to reach the final before the American fightback in the second set.
Both Mirza and Bopanna made a couple of horrendous errors in the second set and their opponents took full advantage of their miscalculations to seal the second set. However, India began the tie-break well before a few errors and some thunderous strokes from both Williams and Ram sealed the match for the Americans.
In the bronze medal play-off, both of India’s opponents were accomplished players at the Doubles circuit and it was bound to be an exciting match but from the start it looked completely one sided as the opposition in particular Stepanek was in brilliant touch with his fabulous net play being a very effective counter attack to Bopanna’s reflex returns and his volleys seldom getting the better of the Indian pair. Hradecka was also doing well with her serve and forehand.
The Indian pair somehow managed to get one game in their 6-1 drubbing of the first set. India began the second set well with Sania Mirza’s forehands and volleys coupled with some errors from the opposition putting them 3-1 up but they soon squandered the advantage. Soon, Bopanna started making a string of double faults and that helped the Czechs make the decisive break in the 11th game of the match and soon took the second set 7-5 to clinch the bronze.
Both Mirza and Bopanna made a number of unforced errors in their last few games and Bopanna in particular made a number of double faults. And what was worse that when one made the error, the other wasn’t able to cover up for that error. For instance, in the bronze medal match, whenever Hradecka made a double fault or an unforced error, Stepanek was always there to cover up for her mistake through his crafty play and brilliant volleys. The same thing was also evident in their semi-final match as both were just throwing away points with their continuous errors and Double faults whereas the American pair always had a counter-attack to neutralise their own errors.
Questions could also be asked about their temperament when it comes to big matches as their performance graph lowered drastically during the latter stages of the competition and wer far from replicating their form from previous matches. The bottomline is that both players had a total lack of coordination when it mattered the most and that is what led to their drastic downfall.
India’s tennis contingent had an overall unimpressive outing at Rio with the Mixed doubles helping it to be a lukewarm outing. If India are to put up a better showing at other tennis competitions in furture years then a lot of work is yet to be done.