Much was expected of Sania Mirza and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Especially after the 10th seeded pair reached Melbourne with the trophy from Brisbane in their bags. However, Sania and her partner failed to capitalise opportunities and their Spanish opponents – Carla Suarez Navarro and Silvia Soler-Espinosa responded by fighting back from two breaks down in the second set to coast home 7-6(4), 6-3 and reach the second round of the women’s doubles event in the Australian Open.
The first set swung into thick action from the sixth game. The Spanish pair lost their serve when Sania and her partner took the first break point of the match to take a 4-2 lead. But Navarro and Soler-Espinosa struck back immediately by saving a couple of game points before converting on their first opportunity to bring the set back on serve.
The eight game turned into a tenacious battle for that elusive edge – but the Indo-American pair failed to convert the three opportunities to break serve and the Spaniards held serve to clinch the eleven point game to get even at 4-4. In the tenth game again, opportunity presented itself when the Spaniards faced set point, but yet again Sania-Bethanie wasted the opportunity. The yo-yo swung back and forth one more time – first the Spanish duo broke Sania and her partner to take the lead for the first time in the match.
But serving for the set at 6-5, they surrendered the break to allow the set to drift into a tie-break. With the set hanging in the balance, Navarro and Soler-Espinosa swung to action to take a commanding 6-3 lead in the breaker. The Indo-American duo saved the first point but succumbed on the next to lose the first set.
Not to be undone by that reversal, Sania-Bethanie got off to a stellar start breaking to love in the very first game of the next set. They seemed in control of the second set, when they broke again to take a handy 3-0 lead. But Carla-Silvia set about knocking the pegs down to repair the situation. The Spanish duo returned the compliments by breaking back to love in the fourth game and raced away to the finish winning six games in a row to complete the comprehensive victory in an hour and 32 minutes.
In the end it was an error stricken match in which the total winner count from all four players put together was the grand sum of four. What separated the two teams was one team’s ability to make the most of the flood of opportunities that littered themselves all around court seven. Carla-Silvia converted all five of their break point chances, while Sania-Bethanie let four of their eight break points slip to the ground. The wheels fell off completely for the Indo-American duo at 3-0 in the second set, from where they lost six straight games. For Sania fans, there is more to come – she is playing the mixed doubles with another American, Bob Bryan. Let us hope for a better showing in that event from the Indian, who has now decided to focus on doubles.Published 16 Jan 2013, 09:08 IST