It was meant to be the Indian sports fans’ date with three of their sporting divas on Sunday morning – PV Sindhu, MC Mary Kom and Sania Mirza at the Tokyo Olympics. While Sindhu and Mary Kom started their journey on a winning note, multiple grand slam winner Mirza and her younger partner Ankita Raina came up short in women’s doubles against a Ukraine pair.
“Even though my opponent was lower-ranked, I didn’t want to assume it would be easy. It is important to be focused. I made sure we had some rallies and I got used to the court,” Sindhu, world No.7 shuttler, was quoted as saying after the Rio Olympics silver medallist cantered to a comprehensive 21-7, 21-10 win over No. 58 Ksenia Polikarpova of Israel in a women’s singles Group J match.
Sindhu, the owner of world championship gold which she won in 2019 (the Worlds was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic), raced to a straight games victory in just 29 minutes, not allowing her opponent any chance in the match.
In the first game, Sindhu won 13 consecutive points from six to build a big lead that was enough to overwhelm Ksenia. In the second game too, Sindhu maintained the pressure, winning points at a steady rate as she started her campaign on a winning note.
Sindhu said she used the match as preparation for tougher opponents that she will encounter in the knockout stage. “It’s important to make sure you play all your strokes and get used to them on the court because you can’t play them all of a sudden against a stronger opponent, you can’t do that. It’s important to know that your strokes are going well,” she said.
Sindhu said she will continue with the same approach in the next match against Cheung Ngan Yi of Hong Kong in the three-player group from which the winner will qualify for the pre-quarterfinals.
“Each match is important, and it’s one match at a time. I’m thinking about my next opponent (Cheung Ngan Yi). I will miss the spectators, but everyone is supporting me virtually.”
Asked about the pressure as she is hoping to add to the silver medal she won in 2016 Rio, Sindhu said she is taking the Tokyo Olympics as a fresh tournament and not thinking much about the past.
“Tokyo is a fresh start, and it’s important to be ready every day. Everybody will be in top form. I came with that mindset, and I’m not thinking of the past, but what’s ahead.”
Mary Kom in Round of 16
Mary Kom, now 38 and looking for her last hurrah at the Games, stormed into the Round of 16 of women’s flyweight (48-51 kg) category event after defeating Miguelina Garcia of the Dominican Republic in the round of 32 here at the Kokugikan Arena.
Mary Kom defeated Miguelina 4-1 in the round of 32 match. After the first two rounds, the scoreline stood level at 19-19 and the match proved to be an exciting affair and it was evenly poised.
In Round 3, Mary Kom rose to the occasion and she did enough to progress ahead in the boxing event.
Mirza-Raina fall short
Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina were later knocked out in the first round of the women’s doubles event to the Kichenok twins of Ukraine – Lyudmyla and Nadiia – 0-6, 7-6(0) 10-8 – at the Ariake Tennis Park, bringing an early end to their campaign. Sania and Ankita were in firm control of the match midway but allowed the Ukrainians to make a comeback and eventually run away with the match.
The Indian pair had won the first set 6-0 in 21 minutes, giving no room to the sisters for breaking in. Sania and Ankita were leading 5-3 in the second set before a twist in the script arrived. The Ukraine pair roared back after breaking Sania, who was serving and took the set to a tie-break, which they impressively won 7-0, forcing a decider in the third set.
In the super tie-breaker, Sania and Ankita seemed to be faltering as they found themselves 0-8 down. However, the Indian duo fought back to level the scores at 8-8.
The Kichenok twins, however, secured the last two decisive points to take the super tie-breaker 10-8 and with it the match.