The Indian challenge at the L&T Mumbai Open didn’t take off on the first day as both contenders bowed out of the singles draw.

Zeel Desai, Indian junior No 1, went down 6-3, 6-1 to Canadian seventh seed Carol Zhao in the first match on Monday. Karman Kaur Thandi lost to Dalila Jakupovic 6-2, 6-4 in the next Centre Court match.

Desai’s match lasted an hour and seven minutes, and saw some gritty tennis from the 18-year-old Indian but it wasn’t enough for the wildcard entrant. The higher-ranked opponent’s experience showed in the crunch moments, as the Indian herself admitted after the match.

Desai was broken in the very first game but broke right back in the next game thanks to two doubles faults from Zhao.

The 18-year-old Indian began to play more freely as the match progressed and stretched the Canadian to deuce in several games but couldn’t hold on to press advantage. She was broken again and couldn’t save the set on serve losing in 6-3 in 37 minutes.

Desai looked withdrawn in the second set as Zhao raced to a 2-0 lead. But despite her erratic serve, she played a stunning cross-court pass and then a drop shot to win her solitary game. But Zhao was commanding in the rest of the match, winning the match with a love hold.

After the loss, Desai said that while she tried to be more aggressively, Zhao’s experience, especially during deuce points, showed. The teen also confirmed that this will be her last year as a junior as she aims to play only on the pro circuit now.

Thandi blows hot and cold

Thandi on the other hand, was a lot more aggressive and pushed her opponent to the brink. Her inconsistent serve, though, meant that she couldn’t sustain the momentum.

She started with a love hold, unleashing her powerful serve on Jakupovic with her mentor Mahesh Bhupathi watching. But despite having an advantage, she couldn’t break or ruffle her opponent after the first game. The 19-year-old’s frustration showed as she tried to get her serve right.

But it was largely one way traffic for a good part of the first set as the Slovenian raced to a 5-2 lead and then served it out in only 26 minutes.

The Indian put in a much better display in the second set despite being broken in the third game. She was much quicker and played some good rallies to earn her first break in the sixth game and draw level at 3-3. She then took the lead for the first time in the match with a confident service game.

But Jakupovic, who requested for coach on court, changed the pace and began imparting more spin to her strokes and successfully managed to unsettle Thandi, who lost he serve in the ninth game and then the match.

Later, the Indian doubles combine of Rutuja Bhosale and Ankita Raina were also eliminated in the first round. The pair lost in straight sets to Victoria Rodriguez (Mexico) and Bibiane Schoofs (Netherlands).


Singles: Sabina Sharipova (Uzb) bt Irina Khromacheva (Rus) 2-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(3); Fanny Stollar (Hun) bt Hiroko Kuwata (Jpn) 6-4, 6-3; Valentyna Ivakhnenko (Rus) bt Marie Bouzkova (Cze) 6-3, 6-3; Yanina Wickmayer (Bel) bt Laur Robson (GBR) 7-5, 6-4; Carol Zhao (Can) bt Zeel desai 6-3, 6-1; Dalila Jakupovic (Slo) bt Karman Kaur Thandi 6-2, 6-4; Alize Lim (Fra) bt Mayo Hibi (Jpn) 6-1, 6-1.

Doubles: (pre-quarterfinals): Victoria Rodriguez (Mex) & Bibiane Schoofs (Ned) bt Rutuja Bhosale & Ankita Raina 6-4, 6-3.