Fixture: Sania Mirza/Ankita Raina vs Nadiia Kichenok/Lyudmyla Kichenok
Date: 25 July 2021
Tournament: Tokyo Olympics 2020
Round: First Round (Round of 32)
Venue: Ariake Tennis Park, Tokyo, Japan
Category: Olympic Games
Surface: Outdoor Hard
Live telecast: USA - NBC & Peacock TV | UK - BBC TV | India - Sony Sports Network / Sony Liv
Sania Mirza/Ankita Raina vs Nadiia Kichenok/Lyudmyla Kichenok preview
India's Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina will lock horns with Ukraine's Nadiia and Lyudmyla Kichenok in the first round of the women's singles event at the Tokyo Olympics. While Raina will be making her Olympic debut, Mirza will be competing in the quadrennial event for the fourth time.
Mirza is arguably one of the most decorated players on the doubles circuit. She has won three of the four Grand Slams in women's doubles and has enjoyed a 91-week reign atop the rankings.
Mirza last played a full season in 2017. She then took a two-year hiatus following the birth of her child. She returned to action at the 2020 Hobart International, where she won her 42nd title partnering Nadiia Kichenok.
Mirza is coming off a second-round exit at Wimbledon, where she and Bethanie Mattek-Sands were defeated by eventual runners-up Elene Vesnina and Veronika Kudermetova.
Raina, meanwhile, cracked the top 100 in singles for the first time in her career earlier this year. She also won her first WTA doubles title at the 2021 Philip Island Trophy in Melbourne. She has had quite a successful season thus far and will come into this tournament with plenty of confidence.
The Indians' first-round opponents, Nadiia Kichenok and Lyudmyla Kichenok, have been doubles partners for a long time. The Ukrainians have won three titles together and are only the second pair of twins to lift a WTA title.
The 29-year-olds also won the 2018 WTA Elite Trophy, which remains the highlight of their doubles career. The Kichenok sisters will be making their Olympic bow in Tokyo.
Check Out: Tokyo Olympics 2021 Schedule
Sania Mirza/Ankita Raina vs Nadiia Kichenok/Lyudmyla Kichenok head-to-head
The two teams have never locked horns with each other before. But Sania Mirza has played the Kichenok sisters with different partners. She boasts a 3-0 head-to-head record against them.
Mirza's latest victory against the Ukrainians came earlier this year at the Doha Open, where she teamed up with Andreja Klepac.
Sania Mirza/Ankita Raina vs Nadiia Kichenok/Lyudmyla Kichenok prediction
Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina have teamed up once before, leading India to victory in a Billie Jean King Cup playoff tie. Although the Ukrainian siblings have enjoyed a much longer partnership, Mirza's doubles pedigree will hold the Indians in good stead.
Both teams play contrasting brands of tennis. While the Kichenok sisters rely on their quick handskills and deft touches at the net, Mirza and Raina prefer slugging it out from the back of the court.
Mirza, in particular, has an extremely powerful forehand that can deal plenty of damage when it's firing on all cylinders. One area of concern for the Indian pair is the serve. Raina does not have a particularly strong serve and she tends to leak double faults under pressure.
But if the Indians bring their best tennis and stay focussed, they should be able to overcome the Ukrainians and advance to the second round.
Prediction: Sania Mirza/Ankita Raina to win in three sets
Check Out: Tokyo Olympics Medals Tally