The Indian tennis contingent won three medals instead of the projected five but that happened due to Ramkumar Ramanathan’s disappointing performance in singles and the unexpected absence of stalwart Leander Paes, said coach Zeeshan Ali.
“The target was a medal in all five events. Ram was a big disappointment in singles. Expected a lot from the second seed, he had been playing good tennis over the last six months. Disappointed that he played a wrong tactical match, doing things that he was not comfortable doing (serve and volley). There was a medal prospect right there,” Ali told PTI, reflecting on the performance.
India won five medals including a mixed doubles gold at Incheon four years ago. At the Jakabaring Tennis Center, medals came from men’s doubles, men’s singles and women’s singles.
The captain and coach said India should have won two men’s singles medals and one in mixed doubles.
“It was a very creditable performance from Prajnesh to win a medal but he was the fourth seed. Similarly, Ram too was expected to reach the semifinals,” said Ali.
It was still a pretty decent effort, considering Paes had pulled-out last minute as he was unhappy with the team selection.
That left Ali with very little time to decide one men’s doubles combination and the two mixed doubles pairings. The mixed pairing of Ankita Raina and Rohan Bopanna, and Karman Kaur Thandi and Divij Sharan was formed after just one ‘try-out’ session
“To say that we didn’t (miss Paes) would be incorrect. I had to work men’s doubles and mixed doubles combination in no time, especially mixed. With Leander’s experience, things could have been different in mixed and men’s doubles,” said Ali.
Sania, who is expecting, had won a mixed doubles gold and women’s doubles silver four years ago.
“It was pretty good considering the last minute pull-out, not having our number one men’s singles player (Yuki Bhambri), number one women’s doubles player (Sania Mirza) and Leander not coming. With the team that we had, we did okay.”
Asked to pick the positives from the Games’ campaign, Ali picked Raina’s bronze winning effort in singles and the doubles gold from Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan. Raina became only the second Indian after Sania to win a women’s singles medal at Asian Games.
“It was the coming together of Rohan and Divij. They played together for the first time. I was very impressed with the way they handled themselves. There were a few ups and downs but with the experience they have, they were able to get through those tough matches in quarters and semis.
“Going forward, I hope they can play a couple of tournaments together because their rankings are close to each other. That would help Indian tennis in Davis Cup, team events like Asian Games and Olympics.”
However, it is too early to say that they can win an Olympic medal.
“For the Olympics, they would need to have to play at a much higher level to win a medal. Of course every match they played helped them improve as a team and it was evident in the final. Also Rohan is 38-39, Sharan is also in the 30s, so little early to say what is going to happen two years down the line.
“The entry into the Olympics is also based on the ATP rankings. Two years ago Rohan was in the top-10 and so was Leander but that is not the case anymore. They need to improve the rankings to play in the Olympics. But they have proved over here that they can play together,” added the former Davis Cup player.