Sania Mirza’s Olympic medal dreams crash with first-round exit in Tokyo

Mirza was competing in her fourth Olympic Games but a medal continues to elude the six-time Grand Slam winner

Sania Mirza of India talks to the media at the 2020 Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament

Former world No 1 doubles player Sania Mirza and countrywoman Ankita Raina were defeated in the first round of the women’s doubles event at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. The unseeded duo went up by a set and a break with Mirza serving for the match late in the second set against the Kichenok sisters, Lyudmyla and Nadiia, before the Ukrainian duo stormed back to win the match in a third set super-tiebreak.

The Ukrainian sisters finally emerged 0-6, 7-6, 10-8 winners to advance to the second round in Tokyo.

This was Mirza’s fourth Olympic appearance and with the chance of making the cut for the mixed doubles draw with countryman Sumit Nagal appearing slim based on their combined ranking, the Tokyo Games could very well be over for Mirza.

If that does turn out to be the case, then an Olympic medal will continue to evade the six-time Grand Slam doubles winner. Mirza, who has spoken about the Olympic medal being one of the major goals she is still chasing, came closest to winning a medal at the 2016 Rio Games where she and partner Rohan Bopanna lost in the bronze medal play-off match.

Having just returned from maternity leave in January 2020, Mirza will be 38 years old by the time the next Olympic Games in Paris come around.

“I think she will be bringing more excitement in the coming months.” – Former India No. 1 Sanjeev on Sania Mirza

While Sania Mirza has not made any announcements around her future plans post the Olympics, Nirupama Sanjeev, the former India No 1 who was the first Indian woman to win a singles main draw match at a Grand Slam (1998 Australian Open), does believes that Mirza is not done just yet with her tennis career.

In an interview published by Sportskeeda, which took place a few days before Mirza’s first-round match in Tokyo, Sanjeev spoke about Mirza’s impact on Indian sports and says she thinks Mirza will be bring a lot more excitement to Indian tennis fans in the coming months.

“Sania Mirza’s impact has been tremendous. Before Sania, I don’t think there was this much excitement about women’s sport in India. As the first person to bring this kind of excitement, she popularized the sport more than anyone else has. It’s sort of like what happened with Saina (Nehwal) in badminton. Sania’s comeback story is going to be so amazing because she is single minded, she wants it, and she’s hungry and I don’t think her career is over yet. I think she will be bringing more excitement in the coming months.”

Mirza has made plans for the American hardcourt swing post the Olympics, which is a good sign for her fans. She will be partnering American Asia Muhammad, ranked No 35 in the world, in the WTA 500 event in San Jose which begins next week.

Based on that, it seems likely that Mirza will be swinging a lot more of her famous forehands in the coming months on the tennis circuit.

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