Palembang : 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 on Thursday.
Sharan and Bopanna are assured of at least a silver but will be going for gold in the final on Friday. 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 quarter-final lasting almost four hours.
Earlier, against the world number 34 from China and a Grand Slam quarter-finalist, 189th ranked Raina had nothing to lose.
She went for her shots and that surprised her seasoned opponent. The spirited Indian, who agreed to playing all three events, eventually lost 4-6, 6-7 (6) in the semi-final lasting 131 minutes.
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 quarter-finals, 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. “May be she was tired and needed rest. It happens all the times (players use time-out). And I wanted to get on with the tennis,” said the 29-year-old from Tianjin.
Raina was expectedly disappointed at the result. “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 but, eventually lost the match 4-6, 6-3, 10-8.
Having lost the first set 4-6, Bopanna and Sharan had to try something different and they switched sides.
“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.
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