India had a relatively fruitful day on the tennis courts at the prestigeous
Wimbledon with the warring duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi advancing to
the second round of the men"s doubles event of the Olympic Games with their
respective partners here today.
While Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna had to sweat it out before suppressing the
challenge of Max Mirnyi and Alexander Bury of Belarus 7-6 (4) 6-7 (4) 8-6, Paes
and his unheralded partner Vishnu Vardhan got the better of Jean Julien Rojer
and Robin Haase of The Netherlands 7-6 (1) 4-6 6-2.
Paes and Vardhan, ranked 208 in the world, struggled to win the first set and
lost their rhythm to concede the second set.
But they bounced back brilliantly in decider to clinch the issue and keep their
hopes alive in the competition.
Bhupathi and Bopanna, whose insistence to play together sparked off a selection
row in the build-up to the Olympics, staved off a spirited challenge from their
Belarus opponents to script a gruelling three-set win.
Bhupathi and Bopanna held their nerve to edge out Mirnyi and Bury in their
opening tussle which lasted for two hours and 26 minutes.
Both the teams went neck-and-neck till the very end before the Indian pair
pulled off a thrilling win to keep their medals hope alive in the Games.
In the tense third set, Bopanna and Bhupathi put their rivals under pressure
with an attacking brand of tennis.
The Indian pair will now take on Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau of France
in the second round.
Speaking after the match, Bopanna said it was a tough opening enounter but he
and his partner were not nervous in the tense dying stages of the contest
although there were a few controversial line calls.
"With this format, with these two guys serving so big it's going to come down to
one or two points at the end. Any call like that at such a big time it's
frustrating when you are playing. There was one call right there that was
terrible," Bopanna said.
"I think the referee is in a tight situation, too, he is feeling the pressure,
too, but if the chair umpire doesn't come into play in the big situations it's
going to be tough for us to do anything out there."
On their opposition, he said: "The guys are 6ft 5 inches. They are not easy to
break, especially on grass. In the third set there is no tie-break, so you know
you have to break. We got lucky with that break point in the third set and we
"We were playing at a high level, I don't think we were nervous at all. We
played a really tough team," he said.
Bopanna also said that the selection row ahead of the Games had no bearing on
"The baggage is forgotten and gone, long gone. We got here well prepared so for
us it's just one match at a time and take it from there," he said.
"We are happy that we got a lot of practice here for the last week and now to
play this tough match and take a win is just going to take our confidence
higher," Bopanna added.
Bhupathi said he and Bopanna showed great character after some dubious line
"We didn't want to be in that situation, we should have closed it in two sets.
You've got to give us some credit, we fought after that bad call, three break
points in that game on my serve, it was rough," Bhupathi said.
"We are just happy with the win."
In the men's singles competition, India's Vishnu Vardhan, who was given a wild
card at the eleventh hour, went down tamely to another wild card Blaz kavcic of
Slovakia in the opening round.
Vishnu made a valiant effort to counter Kavcic but in vain as his rival pulled
off a convincing 6-3 6-2 win in a contest which lasted for one hour and 12
"It's a great experience for me. I have never played at Wimbledon. I was not a
good enough junior to play on these courts. I was very lucky to play the singles
here. I worked really hard in the match but I could not win," he said.
"Not many Indians have played singles in the Olympics and I am really happy to
be one of them," Vishnu said after the match.
On how grateful he is to doubles partner Leander Paes for helping him get into
the singles draw as an alternate, he said: "Leander is the person I should
thank. First of all I am here because of him.
"Secondly, the day before yesterday he called me up late evening and said there
is a spot in the singles draw and you need to go and sign up first thing in the
morning. I was not aware of that. I am really happy to get more matches on these
courts so I am more prepared for the doubles," he added.