Vastavam web: Ankita Raina played her heart out against top seed Shuai Zhang before settling for bronze, while Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan used all their experience to bounce back and enter the men’s doubles final of the Asian Games, here on thursday. Sharan and Bopanna are assured of at least a silver but will be going for gold in the final tomorrow. Another medal was assured when world number 161 Prajnesh Gunneswaran outlasted 273rd ranked Kwon Soonwoo of South Korea 6-7 (2 ), 6-4, 7-6 (8) in a marathon quarterfinal lasting almost four hours.
Earlier, against the world number 34 from China and a Grand Slam quarterfinalist, 189th ranked Raina had nothing to lose. She went for her shots and that surprised her seasoned opponent. The gruelling second set alone lasted 77 minutes. After this effort, she became India’s second women’s singles medallist at the Asian Games after Sania Mirza. Sania had won a silver in the 2006 Doha edition, followed by a bronze in 2010 Guangzhou. “She played very well today. It was a tough match. If she keeps on playing this, she can get into the top-100 and may be even top-50,” Zhang, who reached the 2016 Australian Open quarterfinals, was generous in her praise.
In the match, however, the Chinese was ruthless. She did not hide her anger when Raina took a time-out while trailing 4-5 in the opening set. Zhuang was also unhappy with a couple of line calls. “I came here to win gold. Hopefully, I can do that in the mixed doubles (with Bopanna). It was a tough match and I could have won. She is obviously an experienced player but I thought I could beat her,” Raina, soaking in the sweat, said.
While Raina was playing on center court, Bopanna and Sharan were fighting it out on court one against the Japanese pairing of Shimbakuro S and Uesugi Kaito. The Japanese played well and got very close to causing the biggest upset in the draw. “We had to change the strategy. They were playing really well. They were taken aback when we switched sides. They did not see it coming. And all that experience of playing on the tour also helped. It was a close match and in the super tier-break it could have gone either way,” said Bopanna.
They don’t play together on the tour but are employed by same company, Indian Oil. Bopanna said there is a possibility that they both might play together on the ATP circuit. “Why not? But right now we have a settled pairing with our respective partners. But it is something we can definitely look at in the future. I have known Divij for a long time and we get along really well,” added Bopanna.