World No.1 Sania Mirza put up a brilliant fight in partnership with rookie Prarthana Thombare against the formidable Chinese combination of Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai, but the Indian pair went down 7-6(6), 5-7, 7-5 in the first round of the women’s doubles, at the Tennis Centre on Saturday evening.
Sania and Prarthanaput up a dogged performance to make it a humdinger.
In a gripping contest that lasted two hours and 45 minutes, the Chinese proved marginally better. Sania and Prarthana converted eight of 20 breakpoints, while the Chinese converted eight of 19. The Indian pair, which had three aces and four double-faults, won 130 points to 136 by the Chinese, who had an ace and two double-faults.
Prarthana hit her strokes with conviction and composure. She was quick on her feet and razor-sharp at the net; her backhand volleys were a revelation. She also came up with telling lobs and played an all-round game.
The Indian girls failed to serve out the first set at 5-4 after they had got off to a strong start breaking Peng in the first game. Sania and Prarthana survived three set-points before losing grip after 70 minutes of intense action.
In the second set too, the Indian pair got off the blocks briskly and led 5-2 before allowing the Chinese to catch up. Sania and Prarthana broke Zhang in the 12th game to seal the set. In the decider, Sania and Prarthana fought back from 1-3, breaking Peng in the sixth game to pull abreast.
However, the Chinese girls managed to get the crucial break in the 11th game, and Zhang served the match out at love. Sania and Rohan Bopanna will now train and get ready for the mixed doubles competition featuring a small field of 16 high-quality teams.