India was delivered a knock-out punch in the women's competition, losing 0-3 to unfancied Indonesia in the first round, in the tennis event of the Asian Games here on Saturday.
Playing without its main player Sania Mirza, recovering from a sore throat, India underestimated the fighting qualities of Indonesia and overestimated the 33-year-old Nirupama Sanjeev's ability to tackle the demands of a singles court to suffer an early exit.
Coach Enrico Piperno who had guided the Indian women's team to the silver in the last edition in which Sania had won the individual silver and mixed doubles gold, conceded that it was a mistake on his part to have fielded Nirupama in the first singles.
He added that he should have played Rushmi Chakravarthi rather than gambling with Nirupama, who lost 1-6, 1-6 to 449th-ranked Fani Ayu Damayanti.
The towering Poojashree Venkatesh looked likely levelling scores when she led 6-3, 3-1, 40-15 against the diminutive Lavinia Tananta, ranked 334th in the world. However, Poojashree could not quite finish it off and got broken twice at love in the fifth and seventh games of the decider.
About the dead doubles rubber, Piperno conceded that the seasoned Yayuk Basuki and Jessiy Rompies would have been too good for any Indian combination.
“Once I saw the way the Indonesians played the doubles, I realised that the only way we could have beaten them was by winning both singles. There was no other way of beating them,'' said Piperno.
The shock would serve as a wake-up call for Sania and company in their quest for medals at the Games. Sania will be competing in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. She is likely to partner Nirupama and Somdev Devvarman.
Meanwhile, the Indian men warmed up for the tougher challenges by dismissing Qatar 3-0, dropping four games in all, to book a quarterfinal meeting against Thailand.
Karan Rastogi won 6-1, 6-1 against Jabor Mohammed Al Mutawa and Somdev Devvarman was equally ruthless, winning 6-0, 6-1 against Shanan Zayed Mousa.
In doubles, Sanam and Somdev beat Shaman Mubarak Zayid and Abdulrahman Ali Al Hareth 6-0, 6-1.