India’s warring duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, who were locked in an ugly selection row in the build-up to the Olympics, advanced to the second round of the men’s doubles competition along with their respective partners, in London on Monday.
Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, whose insistence to play together sparked off the selection row, staved off a spirited challenge from Belarus pair of Max Mirnyi and Alexander Bury 7-6 (4), 6-7 (4), 8-6 in a tussle which lasted two hours and 26 minutes here.
Later in the evening, Paes and Vishnu Vardhan also put up a spirited performance to see off Robin Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-2 in a match that went on for 112 minutes at the Wimbledon.
However in the men’s singles, Vishnu, who was given a wild card at the 11th hour, went down tamely to another wild card Blaz kavcic of Slovakia 3-6, 2-6 to end his challenge.
In the men’s doubles, Bhupathi and Bopanna held their nerves and went neck-and-neck till the very end before pulling off a thrilling win to keep their medal hopes alive.
In the tense tie-breaker in the third set, Bopanna and Bhupathi put their rivals under pressure with an attacking brand of tennis.
The Indian pair will now take on R Gasquet and J Benneteau of France in the second round.
In another men’s doubles match, Paes and Vishnu too managed to overhaul their Dutch rivals after a grueling three-set battle.
The Dutch pair sent down eight aces compared to the three by the Indian pair but they also double faulted thrice.
The Indian pair had a better break point conversation rate as they converted three of the six opportunities that came their way. In comparison, the Dutch combo could make count only two of the six chances they got.
The Indian combo will now take on Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the second round.
Earlier in the day, Vishnu, ranked 208 in the world, made a valiant effort to counter Kavcic but in vain as his rival pulled off a convincing win in a contest which lasted one hour and 12 minutes.
“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. 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, Vishnu said his senior partner had a role in his playing in the singles.
“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.”
Vishnu had entered the men’s singles draw when Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew due to a right hamstring injury.
With his defeat, Indian challenge has ended in the men’s singles as Somdev Devvarman had already bowed out after losing to Jarkko Nieminen of Finland.