Rio de Janeiro: India lifted its sagging morale as Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna cruised into the semifinals while pugilist Vikas Krishnan advanced to the quarters on a day the shooters, archers, shuttlers and track and field athletes suffered reverses at the Rio Olympics here.
Sania and Bopanna subdued Britain’s Andy Murray and Heather Watson with remarkable ease to breeze into the mixed doubles semifinals with a 6-4 6-4 win in just 67 minutes.
One more victory will ensure India a silver medal and a defeat in the semifinals would give Sania and Bopanna a chance to fight for the bronze.
Sania and Bopanna were a better team than the Britons, who never posed a threat to the Indians. Bopanna was solid with his booming serve while Sania played superbly from the back of the court.
Vikas then stood a win away from an elusive Olympic medal as he outclassed Turkey’s Sipal Onder 3-0 to make the quarterfinals of men’s 75kg middleweight boxing.
The 24-year-old Indian started off with some counter punches in a fast-paced round one in Pavilion 6 at Riocentro, and carried on the momentum throughout to emerge triumphant.
Before that though, India did not have anything to cheer about.
The men’s hockey team, already assured of a berth in the quarter finals, led twice against lowly Canada before allowing their rivals to bounce back and earn a 2-2 draw in their concluding pool game.
London Games bronze winning shooter Gagan Narang and Chain Singh bowed out of Rifle Prone in the qualification, even as Gurpreet Singh and Mairaj Ahmed Khan finished the stage 1 qualifying of 25m rapid fire pistol and men’s skeet on 10th position.
To add to the woes, the country’s athletes made a disastrous beginning in track and field events with star discus thrower Vikas Gowda buckling under pressure once again to finish a distant 28th with a poor best throw of 58.99 metres and was eliminated.
The day commenced with Atanu Das letting slip chances in his men’s individual recurve pre-quarterfinal to bow out of contention and draw curtains on India’s fruitless campaign in archery.
Taking aim amid heavy rain, Atanu went down 4-6 to World No.8 Lee Seung-Yun, who had already helped South Korea win the team gold at the event, by losing two sets and winning one while the rest two ended in ties.
The Indian lost 28-30, 30-28, 27-27, 27-28 28-28 to bring to an end the country’s medal-less campaign.
“Every match (competition) has its own pressure. Olympics obviously is the highest level. You have more pressure here. This was my first Olympics. I tried my best but could not succeed. Hope to do better the next time,” Atanu told PTI after his exit from competition.
Women archers Laishram Bombayla Devi, Deepika Kumari and Laxmirani Majhi have already bowed out of contention after losing in both the women’s team and individual events.
The script was no different in another precision sport, shooting, where seasoned Narang and Chain Singh flopped in the 50m rifle prone event.
While Narang, who won the London Games bronze in 10m Air Rifle, signed off 13th with a total score of 623.1, Singh was way down at 36th with a score of 619.6 in the qualification round.
The outing was particularly disappointing for Narang, who was placed as high as 4th at one stage. However, he bungled the advantage by shooting his poorest in the sixth and final series, which yielded him his lowest score of 102.4.
In badminton, the experienced duo of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa was eliminated from women’s doubles event after losing a second successive group A clash while Manu Attri and his partner B Sumeeth Reddy crashed to their second defeat in the group and were knocked out of medal reckoning.
In a rollercoaster game against the Dutch team of Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek, Jwala and Ashwini went down 16-21, 21-16, 17-21 in a 48-minute clash.
Lying second from bottom in the group standings, Jwala and Ashwini will have just pride to play for when they take on Puttita Supajirakul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Indonesia in their final group clash.
Manu and Sumeeth lost to the Chinese pair of Biao Chai and Wei Hong 13-21 15-21. They lost 18-21 13-21 to World No 2 Indonesian duo of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan yesterday.
They will finish their Olympics by taking on the Japanese duo of Endo Hiroyuki and Hayakawa Kenichi tomorrow.
Later in the day in athletics, Manish Singh Rawat finished 13th while his two other compatriots Gurmeet Singh and Krishnan Ganapathi were disqualified early in the men’s 20km race walk road event.
In golf, SSP Chawrasia brought home a second successive even-par 71 to lie tied 30th while Anirban Lahiri carded a disappointing two-over 73 to be placed tied 51st after the second round.