Hangzhou Asian Games | Gold medal favourite Bopanna-Bhambri pair suffers shock exit, Ankita, Rutuja progress to pre-quarterfinals

The defeat will rankle the Indian pair all the more as Bopanna is a top-10 player in doubles while Bhambri too is ranked among the top-100

Updated - September 25, 2023 05:31 pm IST

Published - September 25, 2023 03:11 pm IST - Hangzhou

Rohan Bopanna. File

Rohan Bopanna. File | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

In a huge upset, gold medal favourites and top seeds Rohan Bopanna and Yuki Bhambri were on September 25 knocked out of the Asian Games after being stunned by lower-ranked Sergey Fomin and Khumoyun Sultanov from Uzbekistan, in Hangzhou.

Bhambri struggled with his serve and strokes in the latter part of the match while the Uzbeki players raised their game against their superior opponents to walk away with a 2-6, 6-3, 10-6 win in the second round.

The defeat will rankle the Indian pair all the more as Bopanna is a top-10 player in doubles while Bhambri too is ranked among the top-100. The Uzbekis are not even in the top-300.

Serving at 3-4, 30-all in the second set, Bhambri served a double fault to go down by a break point. A wide backhand from Bhambri’s racquet handed the Uzbekis the crucial break.

Sultanov made no mistake in serving out the set by consistently putting in his first serves.

In the Super-tie breaker, the Uzbekis raced to a 3-0 lead and soon the Indians were down 5-1. The Uzbekis pulled off a stunning service return winner to make it 6-1 on Bopanna’s serve.

Fomin earned four match points with a backhand winner. The Indians saved the first but Sultanov found an inside-out forehand winner on the second to close the contest in their favour.

India coach Zeeshan Ali said that Bopanna did not get the required support from Bhambri in the match.

“At this level and being an experienced player, one cannot afford to make many errors at crucial moments of the match. You have to be able to grab any opportunity that presents itself,” Zeeshan told PTI.

“Not taking anything away from the Uzbekistan players, they probably played the best match of their lives, with nothing to lose. We had chances in the second set with a couple of break points at 3-all and, had we won that game, the outcome of the match would have been different.

Indians could not convert 12 of the 16 break-points in the match.

“Rohan played a good match but unfortunately did not get the required support needed to win today from his partner who otherwise has been having a very good doubles season,” added Zeeshan.

Bopanna, at 43, is playing his last Asian Games. He had won gold in the 2018 edition with Divij Sharan.

Both Bopanna and Bhambri will now compete in the mixed doubled. Bhambri and Ankita Raina are top-seeded while Bopanna and Bhosale are seeded second.

Bopanna had ended his Davis Cup career last week, playing against Morocco in Lucknow.

Early in the day, India’s top singles tennis player Raina was off to a flying start while Bhosale struggled past lower-ranked Aruzhan Sagandikova to move into the women’s singles pre-quarterfinals.

Raina did not lose a single game in her second-round match and required just 51 minutes to send packing 17-year-old Sabrina Olimjonova from Uzbekistan 6-0, 6-0.

Ranked 198th in singles and winner of a bronze medal from the 2018 edition, third seed Raina will now clash with Adithya P Karunaratne from Hong Kong for a place in the last-eight stage.

Sagandikova is ranked as low as 746 but it was far from an easy match for the Bhosale, who needed two hours and one minute to go past her rival from Kazakhstan 7-6(2), 6-2.

The first set itself lasted one hour and 16 minutes as Bhosal, ranked 336th, had to work hard for the win.

The 13th seed Indian’s next opponent is fourth seed left-hander Alex Eala from the Philippines.

In the men’s singles, Ramkumar Ramanathan did not have to move a sinew to move to the next round. His rival from Tajikistan Sunatullo Isroilov did not turn up for the contest, giving a walkover to the Indian.

Ramkumar then combined with his second-seed partner Saketh Myneni to move to the men’s doubles quarterfinals, beating the Indonesia pair of Ignatius Anthony Susanto and David Agung Susanto 6-3, 6-2 in 68 minutes.

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