Sania Mirza wins first match on her return to court

Mirza and Kichenok will be facing Vania King and Christina McHale in the last-8.

By Subhayan Dutta ·

In one of the most anticipated returns to the game, veteran Indian doubles player Sania Mirza got to a winning start at the Hobart International. Along with partner Nadiia Kichenok, she got the better of Georgia-Japanese duo of Oksana Kalashnikova and Miyu Kato 2-6, 7-6 (3), 10-3 in the first round that lasted one hour 43 minutes.

Coming into the tournament after a two-year hiatus, seeking a warmup for the Australian Open scheduled later in the month, the three-set win is set boost her confidence.

A rusty start

Despite setting Instagram on fire by revealing how she lost 26 kgs in four months after giving birth to her baby boy, the 33-year-old Sania Mirza took some time to get to her paces on Tuesday. The pair of Mirza and Kichenok were broken in the third and seventh game of the first set to lose 2-6, as they trailed 0-1.

The Indo-Ukrainian pair could win 50% of their service games in the first set as opposed to the Georgia-Japan duo’s 100% record. The Indian and her partner also saved only three of the five break points available while Kalashnikova and Kato saved all of theirs.

Taking it to the wire

The second set opened in the most unexpected way with both the pairs losing their opening games. However, the topsy-turvy set didn’t stop at that as Kalashnikova/Kato managed to break their opponents in the first, fifth and the ninth game, while Mirza/Kichenok broke back in the second, fourth and sixth game.

The set was pushed to the decider after it ended 6-6 and the tie-breaker didn’t disappoint either. Mirza and her partner won their serves only twice – fourth and eighth game – while their opponents were broken in all of them. The Indo-Japanese pair got a set point at 6-2 but couldn’t capitalize on it as they had to break their opponent one last time to win the tie-breaker 7-3.

The comeback

More than levelling the match, the one hour one-minute long second set had instilled a belief in Sania Mirza and her partner. However, the third set was far from being error-free.

Mirza and Kichenok were broken thrice in the third set while Kalashnikova and Kato lost their serves a whopping seven times to lose the match-decider 10-3.

The fifth-seeded Sania Mirza will next be playing the USA doubles pair of Vania King and Christina McHale, who stunned fourth-seeded Spanish doubles duo of Perez Garcia and Tormo Sorribes 6-2, 7-5 in their opening round match.

Ankita Raina bows out

Meanwhile, in Melbourne, Anikta Raina could not build on her quality start in the opening round of the Australian Open qualifiers as she lost to Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria 2-6, 6-7 to bow out of the fight for a place in the main draw. 

Raina, the top-ranked Indian on the WTA charts, endured a difficult start to her match as Tomova broke her opponent in the opening game before consolidating her lead in the following to take a 2-0 lead. 

While the Indian did well to win the following game, the Bulgarian was in no mood to let her settle as she broke Raina in the fifth to register a 4-1 lead and put the set beyond the Indian’s reach. Post that, it was just a matter of time before the Bulgarian could wrap up the set 6-2 to take the lead and a healthy momentum into the second set.

With her backs to the wall, the 27-year-old Indian started the second set on a fine note to take a 2-0 lead. But the Indian couldn’t build on that as she let her opponent crawl back into the tie to win the match in an hour and 47 minutes.