Rohan Bopanna and Nadiia Kichenok’s 11th-hour pairing continued to bear fruit on Sunday as the Indo-Ukrainian duo successfully won the second round of the Australian Open mixed doubles competition 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) against Brazilian Bruno Soares and American Nicole Melichar to move on to the quarter-finals.
The 39-year-old Indian was originally scheduled to partner Sania Mirza but a calf injury ruled her out of the running and Rohan Bopanna teamed up with Mirza’s women’s doubles partner Nadiia Kichenok instead.
Rohan Bopanna off to a good start
After the opening set saw a closely-contested competition for the first six games, the seventh saw the tide turn.
With the score tied at 3-3, Nicole Melichar was unable to hold her serve, and after getting two breakpoints, Rohan Bopanna and Nadiia Kichenok converted the third to break their opponents and lead 4-3.
That gap increased to 5-3 after the Indo-Ukrainian duo successfully held serve in the following game, and with both sides holding serve in the next two games, the first set went to Rohan Bopanna and Nadiia Kichenok.
A topsy-turvy battle in the second set
The second set followed a similar pattern to the first, with both sides neck-and-neck for the first seven games. However, this time, it was the Indo-Ukrainian duo who faltered first.
In the eighth game, with the score at 4-3, Nadiia Kichenok failed to hold her serve, as the opposition converted their first breakpoint to lead 5-3.
However, the Bopanna-Kichenok pairing returned the favour immediately as Brazilian Bruno Soares' service game was broken and then went on to hold serve in the next game to equalise the score at 5-5.
Both sides held serve over the next two games to bring the set to a head at 6-6.
A crucial dropshot
In the ensuing tie-breaker, Bruno Soares and Nicole Melichar were broken on the first point, putting them on the backfoot. However, the score was tied at 3-3 after they returned the favour.
The competitors switched sides on the court after that. As the score lay tied at four apiece, a successful dropshot by Kichenok made all the difference, for it broke the Brazilian-American duo and put them on the backburner, trailing at 4-5.
Holding serve in the next two points, Rohan Bopanna and Nadiia Kichenok converted their first match point to win overall in straight sets to move to the mixed-doubles quarter-final of the Australian Open.