Sania Mirza and debutant Ankita Raina were knocked out of the Tokyo Olympics despite dominating a large part of their women's doubles opener against Ukrainian twin sisters Nadiia and Liudmyla Kichenok on Sunday.
Sania and Raina were running away with the contest, but in a dramatic turnaround, the Kichenok sisters came back from the dead to pull off a 0-6, 7-6(0), 10-8 win on Court 11 of the Ariake Tennis Centre.
Sania was serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set but ended up dropping her serve. From there on, the match turned on its head, no longer an encounter in which the Ukrainians looked out of sort, struggling with their serves and returns. The Indians became the prey and the Ukrainians pounced on them, first by winning the second-set tiebreak 7-0.
In the Super Tiebreak, Sania and Raina were down 1-8 before they reeled off seven straight points to make it 8-8. However, they lost the next two points, bringing their Tokyo 2020 campaign to an end.
Earlier, the Indians broke the Ukrainians in the second game of the match to open up a lead. What followed was a sequence of easy service holds for the Indians and dropped serve for their rivals. Mirza and Raina won the first set in just 21 minutes.
The Kichenok sisters finally got on board when Raina's backhand return sailed over the baseline in the second game of the second set. Raina went up 40-15 in the third game but buried a forehand return in the net and Sania also fumbled at the net to make it deuce. The young Indian held nerves to serve out the game with consecutive points. Nadiia's two double faults put the Ukrainians in trouble but they came out unscathed with some solid net play, making it 2-2.
Sania hit a crushing forehand winner to earn a break chance in the sixth game but Raina's backhand return was dispatched for a drop volley winner. Another chance came India's way but Raina netted her backhand from the baseline. Sania's backhand service return winner earned the Indians another chance and they did not squander it this time to go up 4-2.
Raina had an easy hold in the next and now they were one game away from the second round. Serving for match, Sania went down 15-30 but pulled off a well calculated lob to ward off the danger. However, she made two consecutive errors to hand the Ukrainians their first break, the second being a long backhand.
From there on, the match changed dramatically and the Ukrainians started calling the shots.