The much-maligned doubles combination of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna was seeded seventh, but that did not help them in avoiding a good team in the first round, as the tennis draw for the Olympics was made at Wimbledon on Thursday. The duo drew Max Mirnyi and Alexander Bury of Belarus in the first round.
Quite interestingly, while discussing the possible combinations about a fortnight ago, Bopanna had stressed that world No.1 Mirnyi will not have a weak partner, as he was all praise for the 6’ 7” tall Bury.
It will be an acid test straightaway for Bhupathi and Bopanna, who had refused to partner the country’s No.1 doubles player Leander Paes, basically owing to a lack of communication in terms of preparation for the Games, against the big game of the Belarusians on grass.
If they pull through, Bhupathi and Bopanna may play Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet in the pre-quarterfinals. The Indian pair figures in the same quarter as the third-seeded Janko Tipsarevic and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia.
It may be recalled that Paes had partnered Tipsarevic and guided him considerably to the doubles title at the Chennai Open this season, though he may not pass on any further tips to the rivals now!
Paes, playing with Vishnu Vardhan, will meet Robin Haase and Jean Julien Rojer of the Netherlands in the first round. If the duo pulls it off, the second-seeded Michael Llodra and Jo Wilfried Tsonga of France may wait for them in the next round.
The wild card pair of Sania Mirza and Rushmi Chakravarthi will face Chia Jung Chuang and Su Wei Hsieh of the Chinese Taipei. A win for the Indians will set up a second round against Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone of Italy.
Somdev meets Nieminen
The Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Somdev Devvarman, returning to competitive tennis after seven months will have a first round against Jarko Nieminen of Finland. A win can fetch him a pre-quarterfinals against Stanislas Wawrinka who had won the doubles gold with Roger Federer the last time in Beijing.
Incidentally, the sixth-seeded Swiss pair of Federer and Wawrinka will open its title defence against Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda of Japan.
The draw for the mixed doubles, in which India has entered Paes and Sania will be made on July 31. It will have a field of 16 teams.