It seemed like Venus Williams was about to throw in the towel. Well, she was the one calling for towels. Mopping her face and then her palms. The first call was at 3-1, when India was sitting pretty. Then, the calls continued, at irregular intervals. At every stop in the game, a ball boy ran over with a fresh towel.
But, in the end, it was Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna who were forced to throw in the towel at Court 1, Olympic Tennis Centre. The Indians lost 6-2, 2-6, 3-10 in the semi-finals, and the best hope now is a bronze. The duo will play Czech Republic’s Lucie Hradecká and Radek Štěpánek for the bronze. Leander Paes, who won India’s sole Olympic medal—the singles bronze in Atlanta 1996—could be in the stands to watch the play-off.
Earlier today, Hradecká and Andrea Hlavackova had lost to compatriots Lucie Safarova and Barbara Strycova in the women’s doubles play-off for bronze.
For those who watched Sania and Bopanna despatch Andy Murray and Heather Watson in straight sets yesterday, today was a nightmare. The decisive first set win had the galleries cheering for the Indian duo. There were more tricolours in the stands than “star-spangled banners”.
From the second set onwards, the American ruled. Venus Williams reminded everyone that, towel or no towel, she had earned the three Olympic women’s doubles golds in her showcase—Sydney 2000, Beijing 2008 and London 2012. And, the singles gold in Sydney 2000.
As the super tie-breaker was announced, the chill in the air had gained some extra bite. When the game ended, the consolation for the tricolour-wavers was that we have a shot at the bronze and a sure PIO medal, at worst a silver. Ram has his roots in Bengaluru, so does Bopanna.
The final fight of the mixed doubles will be US vs US. Venus and Rajeev will play Jack Sock and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.