In spite of a shaky start in the first set, the fourth seeded pair of Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza quelled the challenge of Wimbledon singles champion Andy Murray and his partner Heather Watson (Wimbledon mixed doubles champion) of Great Britain.
Both Rohan and Sania looked like they were under tremendous pressure at the beginning of the match, especially with Rohan losing his serve in the second game of the match. But a break back on the Heather Watson serve in the third game, and a hold by Sania restored parity.
There was no looking back for the Indian pair after that as they gained one more break and with Rohan serving at 5-4, wrapped up the set. In fact, the only time they looked jittery was in that tenth game. However, Rohan’s powerful serve saw them through.
In the second set, it was the Andy Murray serve that got broken at 2-2 and that ended the fight for the British team. There was another chance for the Indians, when they were up 0-30 on Heather’s serve at 2-4, but she managed to hold on.
The team from Britain did manage to save a couple of match points at 5-4, on Rohan’s serve, but the Indians carried far too much momentum by then and an overhead by Rohan on the third match point saw the Indians breeze through into the semis with a comfortable 6-4, 6-4 win.
For me, the match was all about Sania’s forehand and Rohan’s serve. Without a doubt, Sania unleashes the most powerful forehand in women’s tennis, and on Friday she was on song with that forehand cross-court. She gave Andy Murray no chance to cross and intimidate her. On the other hand, it was Rohan who found his rhythm on the serve –serving aces at will. His big serve made life very easy for the pair.
In all fairness, Andy Murray was coming off an excruciatingly long singles match and I am sure that at the back of his mind, there must have been the thought that he had to come back in less than 24 hours to take on the talented Japanese Kei Nishikori for a spot in the singles finals.
He certainly was not as dynamic as he usually is. But I don’t want to take anything away from the solidity of the tennis that the Indian pair put on show. If they continue in the same vein on Saturday they may just find themselves ending the medal drought that India is facing. In the semi-finals, their opponents will be Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram of the United States.
In the meantime, in an incredibly exciting match, the Spanish pair of Nadal and Lopez took the men’s doubles gold by beating Tecau and Mergea of Romania. In a fast paced, nerve-wrecking match, it was the big heart and never-say-die spirit of the Spanish pair that finally proved to be the match winner. The bronze medal in the men’s doubles was taken by the American pair of Jack Sock and Steve Johnson, who defeated the Canadian pair of Pospisil and Nestor in two comfortable sets.
In the ladies’ singles, German Angelique Kerber will take on unseeded Puerto Rican M Puig. While Puig beat back a strong challenge from Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in three closely fought sets, the second seeded German cruised through in straight sets against the American Madison Keys. Although Keys did push her in the second set, it was very clear that the German was the better player.
So we head into the penultimate day of Olympic tennis with the hope that the Indian mixed doubles pair wins on Saturday and guarantees India a spot on the medal tally.