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Asian Games 2023: Bopanna and Bhambri, gold medal favourites, upset in men’s doubles second round

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

Bhambri struggled with his serve and strokes in the latter part of the match while the Uzbek 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 the doubles and Bhambri too is ranked among the top-100. The Uzbeks are not even in the top-300.

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Serving at 3-4, 30-all in the second set, Bhambri served a double fault to go down a break point. A wide backhand from Bhambri’s racquet handed the Uzbeks 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 Uzbeks raced to a 3-0 lead and soon the Indians were down 5-1. The Uzbeks 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.

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.”

The Indians could not convert 12 out of the 16 break points they got 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 had ended his Davis Cup career last week, playing against Morocco in Lucknow. He had won gold at the 2018 Asian Games with Divij Sharan.

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

Bopanna combined with Bhosale for a 6-4, 6-2 win over Uzbekistan’s Akgul Amamuradova and Maksim Shim to move to the mixed doubles pre-quarterfinals.

Bhosale also booked a berth in women’s doubles second round with partner Karman Kaur Thandi. They beat Kazakhstan’s Zhanel Rustemova and Aruzhan Sagandykova in one hour and 33 minutes. The other Indian men’s doubles pair of Ramkumar Ramanathan and Saketh Myneni progressed to the quarterfinals after beating Indonesian pair of Ignatius Anthony Susanto and David Agung Susanto 6-3, 6-2 in 68 minutes.

FILE PHOTO: Ankita Raina.

FILE PHOTO: Ankita Raina.
| Photo Credit:
GETTY IMAGES

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FILE PHOTO: Ankita Raina.
| Photo Credit:
GETTY IMAGES

Top women’s singles player Ankita 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 Bhosale, ranked 336th, had to work hard for the win.

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

In men’s singles, Ramkumar’s rival from Tajikistan, Sunatullo Isroilov, did not turn up for the contest, giving a walkover to the Indian.

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