Trying hard to hold back tears, an emotional Sania Mirza was at loss of words in explaining the defeat with partner Rohan Bopanna in the mixed doubles event of the Rio Olympic Games, here today. The fourth seed Indian duo of Sania and Bopanna lost the bronze play-off to Czech pair of Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek 1-6 5-7. Sania, who is already 29 and has recoverd from three career-threarening injuries, knows that it was her last and best chance to win an Olympic medal.
“It’s tough and not easy to speak right now. We have to accept it and move on,” a teary-eyed Sania told reporters. “I don’t know, it’s just hard. Olympics come in four years. I don’t know if I will be able to play tennis in four years again,” she said. The defeat brought back memories of the loss of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi in a marathon men’s doubles bronze match in Athens 2004.
Sania said she needs to get over the grief and get ready for the Cincinnati event on the WTA Tour. “As tennis players we are fortunate enough. We go to Cincinnati and we have another shot winning a tennis match.
But unfortunately we were not able to produce our best today.
That’s sport for you. It’s going to take some time to get over it. We have to get over losses and try to bounce back,” she said.
The duo put up some fight in the second set but fell short and Sania said: “We both didn’t do what we do best probably. We did have chances. The second set was fine. We could have won that multiple times but were not able to convert it.”
“There’s not a lot I can say to you at the moment, that’s life you have to move on.” Bopanna said the early breaks in the first set had derailed their campaign.
“The early breaks let us down. I could not strike well in my service game, and it put us on our back foot straightway.
Right now, it’s very hard to focus. In 24 hours we lost two close matches which could have easily gave us a medal. That’s how it goes. You put your best but it still falls short.
“I’m not thinking ahead. Four years is a long way to go.
I just have to get through today,” Bopanna said. India’s tennis campaign at the Rio Olympic Games ended in dejection as Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna were blown away by the Czech team of Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradceka in the bronze medal Play-off, here today. The Indian pair, who raised hopes of a medal with two consecutive wins to make the semis, suffered a 1-6 6-7 humiliation in the mixed doubles contest that lasted one hour and 13 minutes. Mixed doubles was India’s best bet for a medal as it featured only 16 teams and winning three matches would have ensured a medal.
Sania and Prarthana Thombare had lost first round in the women’s doubles while Bopanna and Leander Paes had also made a first round exit from the men’s doubles.
43-year-old Paes, who has now appeared in seven Olympics, now remains the only Indian tennis player to have won a medal in the biggest sporting extravaganza. He had won a singles bronze at 1996 Atlanta Games.
Stepanek was all class in the bronze medal contest as the Czech unleashed his powerful strokes, constructed the rallies and finished points with his superlative display.
The Czechs sprayed the winners all over, catching the Indians by surprise, giving them no breathing space in the opening set. Both Sania and Bopanna lost serve to trail 0-5.
Bopanna saved two set points in the sixth game to save ignominy of being bageled. Lucie came out to serve out the opening set.
It was a disastrous start in the second set too for the Indians with Bopanna dropping serve in the very first game but they broke back Stepanek. The Indians fought a bit and broke Lucie in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead but Bopanna again lost his serve to allow Czechs to make a comeback in the set.
At 5-5, Sania came to serve a must-win game but committed two double faults to be down by three break points. The Czechs converted the third when Bopanna’s half volley soared over the baseline. A nervous Lucie served a double fault but Stepanek supported her with his tremendous presence of mind. Lucie smashed a backhand winner in open court to earn two match points and the Czechs sealed the match when Sania netted the forehand. THis was Stepanek’s first Olympic medal while Lucie won her second medal having won one in women’s doubles meet in London.