India’s star tennis players spent much of their time ahead of the Olympics Games fighting among themselves in a bitter selection row, but that fighting spirit was sadly lacking when they stepped onto the hallowed courts of the Wimbledon.
Not many were actually thinking that the tennis players could win a medal in the Games, particularly after the worst possible build-up that saw players openly squabbling about selections.
The row began when Mahesh Bhupathi refused to play with Leander Paes and instead preferred Rohan Bopanna as his partner.
As the controversy raged on, AITA came up with a compromise formula and fielded two doubles team instead - Bhupathi/Bopanna, and Paes and Vishnu Vardhan, ranked 208 in the world.
To apparently appease Paes, Sania Mirza was made his mixed doubles partner.
But when it was the time to perform, the Indian players failed to make much of an impact and most of the teams lasted only till the second round.
Paes and Mirza were the only team that progressed till the quarter-finals in the mixed doubles.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was Bhupathi, who looked off colour and was found wanting in many areas.
Clearly, the onus was on Bhupathi and Bopanna to deliver as they got the team they wanted and were seeded seventh in the men’s doubles.
Bhupathi-Bopanna won the first match against Max Mirnyi and Alexander Bury of Belarus in a three-set marathon tussle, which lasted two hours and 26 minutes. But the euphoria of winning the opening round was short-lived as they lost to Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau in another three-setter contest in the second round.
“Losing this match is a tough pill to swallow, as we thought we had a legitimate chance. We’re not just here to play and have fun. I’m personally very disappointed with how I played today,” Bhupathi had said after the match.
“Under pressure I have been able to deliver and this time I wasn’t. All credit to Rohan, the last two matches he played the best two matches of the year so far. I feel I have let the team down.” he added.
Paes and Vardhan also won their first round match but found Jo Wilfred Tsonga and Michael Llodra of France, the strong combination, too hot to handle in the second round.
With the elimination of both the men’s doubles pairs, the focus shifted to Paes and Sania in the mixed doubles.
They won the first round against Nenad Zimonic and Ana Ivanovic of Serbia with a clinical display, raising hopes of a medal. But they could not go past the pair of Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the quarterfinals, bringing an end to the Indian challenge in the tennis competitions.
In the men’s singles event, Somdev Devvarman and Vardhan, who got a wild card in the 11th hour, fell by the wayside in the first round itself.