US Open: Sania Mirza and Barbora Strycova face unheralded American pair in opener
Fresh from winning the Cincinnati Open women’s doubles title together, the confident pair of Sania Mirza and Barbora Strycova find themselves handed an easy opener as they start their challenge for the US Open in New York this week. The Indo-Czech duo, seeded seventh, begins their campaign against the American combine of Jada Myii Hart and Ena Shibahara.
Mirza’s road to the title
The relatively unknown pair should not be much of a bother for Mirza and Strycova who can easily make it through to the third round where they can face seeded opponents for the first time. Ninth seeds Raquel Atawo and Abigail Spears should be facing them if the draw holds up according to the seeding.
Mirza, alongside Martina Hingis, beat them this year in Rome en route to winning the title and can very much repeat that result.
It is the quarter-final stage from where the draw gets significantly tougher as Mirza and Strycova run into the top seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic. The French Open champions had inflicted a lot of pain on the Indian of late, beating Mirza and Hingis in two consecutive finals at Stuttgart and Madrid.
Mirza has not met the French team since then and it will be interesting to see how she fares against them with Strycova on her side.
In the semi-finals, the seventh seeds can square off against the sixth seeds Hingis and Coco Vandeweghe whom Mirza and Strycova beat in the Cincinnati final. One of the other big contenders for the semis from Hingis’ section of the draw is the fourth-seeded Czech team of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.
Sania’s last meeting with one-half of that team – Lucie Hradecka – did not go down well for the World No. 1 as she lost the mixed doubles bronze medal match at Rio to the pair of Hradecka and Radek Stepanek. But she rebounded magnificently from that setback to capture her sixth and seventh titles of the year and will surely be in a better frame of mind if this match-up happens.
Mirza and Strycova’s final opponents can be one from the second-seeded pairing of Yung-Jan Chan and Hao-Ching Chan or third seeds Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova or fifth seeds Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova.
The Indo-Czech duo beat the first two at Cincinnati and they can thus take a lot of inspiration from those performances. Mirza also beat the reigning Olympic champions Makarova and Vesnina in her last encounter with the Russians at the Rome final when she was playing with Hingis.
If Sania can carry on with the same brilliant form that she has shown in the past two weeks, there is no reason why she cannot defend the US Open title she won last year with the Swiss Miss.
Indians Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna, who played at the Rio Olympics together, have been placed in opposite halves of the draw and cannot face each other before the final.
For Leander, it is a great opportunity to continue his resurgence. The 43-year-old evergreen Indian icon reached the final of ATP Winston-Salem where he and Andre Begemann squandered five match points in their loss. The pair has been given a comfortable opening round match against fellow unseeded duo of Dudi Sela and Stephane Robert.
In the second round, the 12th seeds Lukasz Kubot and Alexander Peya await following which Leander can come up against his former partner Daniel Nestor, who is playing with Vasek Pospisil.
The quarter-finals will present a stiff challenge as they are likely to square off against the second seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo who won back-to-back ATP Masters titles at Canada and Cincinnati.
Bopanna playing with Nielsen
Unfortunately for former finalist Bopanna, he will not be able to play with his usual partner, Florin Mergea at the Flushing Meadows as the Romanian is injured. The Indian has had to team up with former Wimbledon champion Frederik Nielsen for the final Slam of the year.
The Indo-Danish duo has a tough task in their opener as they tackle the 16th seeds Stepanek and Nenad Zimonjic. If they can overcome that hurdle, fourth seeds and Australian Open champions Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares can be their possible third round rivals.