Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna overcame Ankita Raina-Ramkumar Ramanthan in an unique all-Indian battle on the grass courts of Wimbledon on Friday to progress to the mixed doubles second round.
It was the first time in open era that two Indian teams competed against each other at a Grand Slam tournament.
The experienced Indian duo, reunited on the mixed doubles tour, won 6-2 7-6(5) in a match that lasted 69 minutes. Mirza, 34 years old, and Bopanna, 41, started off strongly to race through the first set but the Wimbledon debutants then came storming back in the second set to go into a 4-1 lead. Mirza and Bopanna however steadied the ship to force a tiebreaker and sealed the deal in straight sets.
Oldest on the court, Bopanna was perhaps the best player as well with his powerful serve and solid ground strokes from the baseline and the ability to execute a superior net game. Mirza’s serve is still not at its best and would improve as she plays more matches but her forehand played a vital role as it usually is the case.
On expected lines, Ramkumar served big and was critical to how well the youngsters competed while Raina gave her all after growing in confidence. The contest finally brought a Grand Slam debut for Ramkumar, who has made 21 attempts to qualify for the singles main draw of a tennis major.
Aidan McHugh and Emily Webley-Smith of Great Britain are the next opponents for Mirza-Bopanna.
Mirza, who is making a comeback to The Championships in England after 2017, and her American partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands are through to the second round of women’s doubles while Bopanna and Divij Sharan are already out, as the pair lost their men’s doubles opening round encounter.
For Raina and Ramkumar, this was their maiden main draw appearance at Wimbledon. Raina had also lost in the women’s doubles first round on Thursday, partnering American Lauren Davis. The Indo-American duo lost in straight sets to the US pair of Asia Muhammad and Jessica Pegula.
Mirza and Mattek-Sands stunned sixth seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Alexa Guarachi to make the second round of the women’s doubles event. They were a bit rusty at the start but once they got their rhythm, they dominated the match and won 7-5 6-3 against the American-Chilean combination in one hour and 27 minutes.
However, Bopanna and Sharan made an early exit after losing their men’s doubles first round 6-7 (6) 4-6 to Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Henri Kontinen. The Indians had paired up to prepare for the Tokyo Games but could not make the cut.
Later on Friday, Divij Sharan and his on and off-court partner Samantha Murray Sharan beat Uruguayan Ariel Behar and Kazakh Galina Voskoboeva 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in a match that had a lengthy interruption due to a ball girl being injured.
For Murray Sharan, Friday’s victory tasted even sweeter as it was her first ever victory at a Grand Slam tournament – Sharan has gone as far as the quarter-finals in the 2018 men’s doubles at Wimbledon.