Rio de Janeiro: Sania Mirza broke down in front of the media after losing the mixed doubles tennis bronze medal play-off here with her partner Rohan Bopanna, and raised doubts if she would be playing at the next Olympics in Tokyo.
India's hopes of their first medal at the Rio Olympics were dashed as Sania and Rohan lost 1-6, 5-7 to Czechs Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek at the Olympic Tennis Centre's Court 1 on Sunday.
“It's really hard (the loss). I don't know if I will be playing tennis in four years,” Sania said with tears in her eyes. A few minutes earlier, she wept copiously while being interviewed by a TV journalist.
Sania said it would take some time to get over this. “Unfortunately we were not able to produce our best today,” she said adding that as athletes “we have to get over losses and try to bounce back.”
The Indians were broken in their very first service game as the Czech pair utilised their first break point to take a lead in the first set. The Indian pair went down in an hour and 11 minutes for the bronze medal play-off on Sunday after losing to Americans Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram 6-2, 2-6, 3-10 in the semi-final match on Saturday.
Sania said the second set with the Czechs could have been won by them “multiple times”, but they were not able to capitalise on it. “In tennis, when you don't convert your chances, that's what happens to the match. There's not much I can say at the moment. We have to move on,” a visibly shaken Sania said. So disturbed was she that she declined to speak in Hindi when asked by some journalists from vernacular papers.
The normally talkative Rohan was also largely circumspect, letting the defeat sink in. “Right now it's very hard to focus clearly. In 24 hours we lost two crucial matches which could have put us in winning position or we could even have won a medal. That's how it goes,” he said in a sombre mood.
“Sometimes you put your best foot forward and it still hits you hard. It's not easy,” Rohan added. When asked about the next Olympics, Rohan said that he was hardly able to think about today. “Four years is too far ahead to think now,” he said.
The Indians on Sunday were totally outplayed in the first set as they found it difficult to cope with the Czech attack. Stepanek, a former partner of men's doubles partner of India's Leander Paes, was in prime form at that stage. He used all his guile and experience to control the flow of the proceedings.
The start of their second set was hardly ideal. But it was Sania's service game that was under pressure, facing three break points during the most crucial phase of the match.
(Hardev Sanotra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)