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Paes-Mirza to 'mix' it up against a tough field

The main reason for the acrimonious fight over partnerships and who should figure as doubles combinations for the Olympics from India was largely about egos, but it was also about Sania Mirza. Sukhwant Basra reports. Olympic games mixed doubles entry list

india Updated: Aug 01, 2012 14:35 IST
Sukhwant Basra
London

Sania-Mirza-and-Leander-Paes-after-the-end-of-the-practice-session-in-London-HT-photo

The main reason for the acrimonious fight over partnerships and who should figure as doubles combinations for the Olympics from India was largely about egos, but it was also about Sania Mirza.

The most realistic prize within grasp has always been a mixed doubles medal. Mirza and Leander Paes, the eventual pairing announced by the national federation, have both won in the format on the big stage -- albeit with different partners. They had a fair chance going into the 16-strong draw.

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The Indian pair faces the Serbian duo of Ana Ivanovic and Nenad Zimonjic in the opener and they are certainly not taking things lightly. "Everyone is really tough in the draw. We just have to try and win," says Mirza. "Zimonjic is one of the top doubles players in the world... you look over the draw and there is not one team which does not have a top-10 player. Every round is going to be tough."

Paes echoes his partner: "This is the Olympics. It's about taking on the best. I have not looked beyond the first round and I know we have to play really well to pull it off. "

On the positive side Paes looked real good in his first outing with Vishnu Vardhan on Monday.

"Yeah, he always does look good (laughs). He was playing amazing," said Mirza. And how does she feel about her own form? "I am hitting all right. I feel I am hitting the ball well. We had an hour of practice on Monday together too. We should play tomorrow (Wednesday), I guess," said Mirza before the schedule of play was announced. In fact, the tennis event has been hit badly by intermittent rain.

Does Mirza feel the two have got enough practice together going into the encounter? "There is only so much that you can practice, right?

"Look at Leander and Vishnu, they hardly got much time together but they did pull it off. Tennis is like that. It's very day to day. You go out there and give it your best."

The Indians are in the top half of the draw with the two seeded pairs of Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka (top seeds from Belarus) and Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond (third seeded, from US). So, they do have their work cut out for them to even win the two encounters that would put them in contention for a medal.

Hesh-Bops lose
In an hour and 18 minutes, the French pair of Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet laid to rest the erroneous belief of both our doubles stalwarts that Rohan Bopanna was the best choice to partner for an Olympics on grass.

Bopanna was broken twice in the second set, first to concede a break back and then to allow the French the chance to serve out the match.

The final score of 6-3, 6-4 was not too charitable to the pair that jumped through hoops and, along with, took Indian tennis through the same to ensure they partnered each other at London 2012.

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