Dubai: Indian fans couldn’t hide their disappointment as their only female representative in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships crashed out of the doubles competition early on Tuesday.
India’s Sania Mirza and Zimbabwe’s Cara Black went down in a closely-fought first-round match to the Czech Republic’s Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Safarova with the 7-6, 5-7, 1-0 (11-9) scoreline highlighting the see-saw contest.
Mirza and Black rallied from 0-2 down to 4-2 in the first set but allowed Hlavackova and Safarova back into the contest after winning just one of the next five games to trail 6-5. Despite a dramatic leveller, they then lost the tie-break.
The second set was just as tight with both tied at 4-4 but, after Hlavackova and Safarova got their noses in front, Mirza and Black then rattled off the next three games to force a 10-point tie-break to decide the winner.
The loss was surprising not just given the strong support for Mirza but also because it follows the 27-year-old’s two consecutive final appearances here.
Mirza and the USA’s Bethanie Mattek-Sands beat Slovenia’s Katarina Srebotnik and Russia’s Nadia Petrova for the crown here last year, though she finished runners-up alongside Russia’s Elena Vesnina against the USA’s Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond in 2012.
Mirza’s partner Cara Black, 35, is also no stranger to final appearances — having won three consecutive doubles titles here from 2007.
Indian fan Hima Vaghani, 41, said that despite Mirza’s disappointing early exit she would continue to follow the matches at the Aviation Club.
“It’s a shame she’s been knocked out in the first round because she’s been in the finals quite a few times,” Vaghani said. “It was a really close match and I think they did their best. All the matches seem to be really close this year.
“I just come to watch good tennis. I’m not coming here because she is Indian or anything like that. I just think it’s a great atmosphere and it’s a really nice time of year to watch sport.”
But fellow Mirza supporter Sanjay Bhatia, 43, said Mirza’s early exit could affect the tournament’s sub-continent appeal. “Definitely the Indians will not come now,” Bhatia said. “I came to see her win and, after winning the second set, it looked like she could do it. If it was a regular game, she would have won, but it was a tie-break, so it was more down to luck.
“The other two were from the same country, so there was better bonding. If the two players are from the same country, it becomes a matter of national integrity. But they knew the opposition’s weakness and could have taken advantage. It was so close.”
Round One Doubles results
Raquel Kops Jones and Abigail Spears beat Hao-Ching Chan and Liezel Huber 6-3, 7-6(4)
Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Alicja Rosolska beat Vera Dushevina and Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-4, 6-3.
Lisa Raymond and Shuai Zhang beat Petra Kvitova and Kirsten Flipkens 0-6, 6-4, 10-7
Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Safarova beat Cara Black and Sania Mirza 7-6, 5-7, 1-0 (11-9)
Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Nadia Petrova 6-4, 6-4