Mirza/Bopanna outclassed in bronze medal playoff

The Indian pair, which raised hopes of a medal with two consecutive wins to make the semifinals, suffered a 1-6, 6-7 humiliation at the hands of Czechs Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradceka in the mixed doubles contest that lasted one hour and 13 minutes.

Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna went down 6-1, 7-5 in the bronze medal match.   -  PTI

Indian hopes of a tennis medal were dashed by the Czech Republic team of Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka, even as Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna tried their best to make a fight of it at the Olympic Tennis Centre on Sunday.

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Like the much accomplished Venus Williams in the semifinals, the 37-year-old Stepanek was also jumping for joy after the Czech team sealed the bronze medal with a 6-1, 7-5 victory.

It was the maiden Olympic medal for Stepanek in his third Games, and he had won only a solitary match in the last two editions in London and Beijing. For the 31-year-old Hradecka, who had to endure the women’s doubles loss in the bronze medal match, after having won the silver in the last edition with Andrea Hlavackova, it was a welcome bronze.

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Sania and Bopanna, who had played exceptionally well in the first two matches, were unable to lift their game at the crunch even though they played good in patches.

There was room for recovery when the Indian team broke the serves of Stepanek and Hradecka to lead 3-1 after Bopanna had dropped serve in the first game of the second set.

This was an impressive revival of fortunes after the Indian pair had slid to 0-5 in the first set, after which Bopanna managed to hold serve for a token game.

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In the crucial fifth game of the second set, Bopanna dropped serve at love — three errors from India and a brilliant down-the-line backhand winner by Hradecka doing the trick for the Czech.

A double fault by Hradecka gave India had an opportunity to break in the eighth game. But the Czechs survived and the Indian team was unable to fight any further.

Sania Mirza saved two breakpoints in the 11th game, but double faulted the next two to drop serve. Hradecka then served out the match and jumped into the arms of an excited Stepanek.

It was the seasoned Stepanek who controlled the match with his calm approach and calculated strokes. Hradecka supported him well and stepped up her game on the key points. In comparison, the Indian pair made too many errors and lacked the intensity to take the fight into the super tie-break.

The Czech had one ace and four double faults, to the two aces and six double faults by India. Stepanek and Hradecka converted five of 10 breakpoints, while the Indian pair capitalised on two of the four breakpoints. The Czech players did not give many chances for the Indian team and were very solid with their crafty game.

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