Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina were knocked out of the Tokyo Olympics despite dominating a large part of their women’s doubles opener against Ukrainian twin sisters Nadiia and Liudmyla Kichenok on Sunday.
Mirza and Raina were running away with the contest after ‘bageling’ their opponents but in a dramatic turnaround, the Kichenok sisters came back from the dead to pull off a 0-6, 7-6(0), 10-8 win at Court 11 of Ariake Tennis Centre.
Mirza was serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set but she was broken and from there on, it was a different match. The Ukrainians, who had looked out of sort and struggled with their serves and returns, grabbed the upper hand.
Mirza and Raina were down 1-8 in the Super Tie break, reeled off seven straight points to make it 8-8 but lost the next two points to make an exit from the Games.
Earlier, the Indians broke the Ukrainians in the second game of the match to open up a lead. What followed was a sequence of holds for the Indians and drops for their rivals. In just 21 minutes, Mirza and Raina had claimed the first set.
The Kichenok sisters finally got on board when Raina’s backhand return sailed over the baseline in the second game of the second set.
Raina went up 40-15 in the third game but buried a forehand return on the net and Mirza also fumbled at the net to get to deuce point. The young Indian held nerves to serve out the game with consecutive points.
Nadiia’s two double faults put the Ukrainians in trouble but they came out unscathed with some solid net-play, making it 2-2.
Mirza hit a crushing forehand winner to earn a break chance in the sixth game but Raina’s backhand return was dispatched for a drop volley winner. Another chance came India’s way but Raina netted her backhand from the baseline.
Mirza’s backhand service return winner earned the Indians another chance and they did not squander it this time to go up 4-2. Raina had an easy hold in the next and now they were one game away from the second round.
Serving for match, Mirza went 15-30 but pulled off a well calculated lob to ward off the danger. However, she made two consecutive errors to hand the Ukrainians their first break, the second being a long backhand.
From there on, the match changed dramatically and the Ukrainians started calling the shots.
With PTI Inputs