Quick end to Paes’s seventh Olympic campaign

It was a quick exit for Leander Paes in his seventh Olympics. The match lasted just over an hour.

Leander Paes, of India, left, and his partner Rohan Bopanna wait for a return during their match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday. Paes and Bopanna lost their first round match to Poland's Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski.

The man with 18 Grand Slam titles and an Olympic medal in singles from the Atlanta Games in 1996 did show his classy touch and finesse, but as a pair the Indian team missed its chances and paid for it.

The Polish duo of Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski played with a lot more vigour and energy than their opponents in recording a 6-4, 7-6(6) victory over Paes and Rohan Bopanna in the first round of men’s doubles.

The 43-year-old Paes had moist eyes as he walked briskly away from the scene of battle.

There very few Indians to cheer the only tennis player in history to play seven Olympics, and the supporting presence was restricted to Sania Mirza, Prarthana Thombare, Sania’s mother and manager Nasima, and a clutch of journalists.

Having walked with the contingent at the Opening Ceremony overnight, close behind Abhinav Bindra who was carrying the flag, Paes was perhaps not at his fluent best.

The rustiness of both Paes and Bopanna was evident at the start, on a court that had high bounce.

There was, however, no doubt that it was a classic case of missed chances. The two had hardly got to train here.

The Indian pair broke the Polish team, twice in succession but Paes and Bopanna dropped serve thrice on the trot themselves to lose the first set.

In the 10th game of the first set, on Bopanna’s serve, Paes erred thrice in succession with the volleys as the game was dropped at love.

Into the second set, the Indian pair played a lot better and saved breakpoints on Paes’s serve in the sixth game.

Kubot, the younger of the two Poles, dropped serve with a double-fault in the 11th game.

It was an opening the Indian pair could have capitalised on to march ahead, but it was not to be. Bopanna was not getting his first serves in and dropped serve, as Kubot ripped a return winner to bring the Poles back into the set.

In the tie-break, Paes and Bopanna had a set-point at 6-5, but the Kubot serve was just too strong, and he went on to set up the Poles’ first match-point.

An error from Bopanna off a Kubot volley brought the curtains down on the Indian challenge in the men’s doubles.

Bopanna will now wait for the mixed doubles draw to be made on August 9.

There is hope that Bopanna and Sania Mirza could be seeded owing to the withdrawal of a number of leading players in both singles and doubles.