Rio de Janeiro: Star shuttlers Saina Nehwal, P.V. Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth were the lone bright spots along with the tennis duo of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna as India endured another dismal day at the ongoing Rio Olympics here.
The Indian men’s hockey team also had something to cheer about as they reached the quarter-finals after a gap of 36 years despite being beaten 1-2 by the Netherlands.
Sania and Bopanna started their campaign in the mixed doubles category on a positive note with a straight sets victory over Samantha Stosur and Jonathan Peers of Australia here on Thursday.
The Indian pair overcame a strong challenge from their Australian opponents in the first set to carve out a 7-5,6-4 victory in one one hour and 13 minutes and book their places in the quarter-finals at the Olympic Tennis Centre.
Sania and Bopanna will now take on the British combination of Andy Murray and Heather Watson for a place in the semi-finals.
At the badminton courts, Saina, Sindhu and Srikanth also won their respective opening matches in the women’s singles event.
But there was disappointment in store for Indian fans in most of the other events with archers Deepika Kumari and Laishram Bombayla Devi crashing out of the women’s individual event while the men’s hockey team went down fighting to the Netherlands.
The badminton events started on a disappointing note as both the men’s and women’s doubles teams of Manu Attri and B. Sumeeth Reddy and Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa lost their respective opening round matches.
To add to the dismay, boxer Shiva Thapa, one of India’s medal hopes, saw his campaign come to an end after he lost his Bantam weight (56kg) category bout to Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez.
As if the failure in the Olympic disciplines was not enough, Sports Minister Vijay Goel and Indian officials added to the shame with the Rio Olympic organisers threatening to cancel his accreditation accusing them of “aggressive and rude” behaviour.
But Saina Sindhu and Srikanth provided some relief to the fans by winning their opening matches albeit in contrasting styles.
Srikanth started his Olympic campaign in superb fashion, breezing past Lino Muzon of Mexico in straight games in the opening match of Group H in the men’s singles event.
The only Indian to qualify in the men’s singles event, Srikanth won 21-11, 21-17 in 41 minutes at the Pavilion 4 of Rio Centrio here.
Srikanth will play his next match against Henri Hurskainen of Sweden on Sunday.
Sindhu started her campaign in style by thrashing Hungarian Laura Sarosi in straight games in her Group M match.
The World No. 10 took just 27 minutes to wrap up the match 21-8, 21-9 against the No. 64.
She will next face Canadian Michelle Li on Sunday.
Placed in Group C, Saina then overcame some stiff resistance from local favourite Vicente Lohaynny 21-17, 21-17 to emerge successful in her opening encounter.
Lohaynny, who was trailing the opening game 5-9 at one stage, fought back to level the scores at 10-10 as Saina went into the mid-game interval with a one point lead before the Brazilian squared off at 17-17.
Saina then used all her experience to take four points on the trot and clinch the hard fought first game 21-17 in 20 minutes.
In the second game, Saina started her dominance by taking a 11-5 lead to the mid-game interval. After the break, the Brazilian tried to fight back, but Saina secured herself with seven match points before taking the second game 21-17 in 19 minutes.
Saina will be playing her next match on Sunday against Maria Ulitina of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, it was heartbreak for both the doubles pairs as the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist duo of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnapa lost their opening Group A match against top seeds Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo of Japan in straight games 15-21, 10-21.
In men’s doubles, the World No.21 Indian pair of Manu Attri and B. Sumeeth Reddy also lost their opening Group D match against the second seeded pair of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia in straight games 18-21, 13-21.
Medal hopefuls Deepika Kumari and Bombayla Devi also added to India’s woes after losing their 1/8 Eliminations round of the women’s individual category, ending India’s campaign in women’s archery.
Deepika went down to Taipei’s Ting Tan Ya 80-87 (27-28, 26-29, 27-30) at the Sambodromo arena while Bombayla lost to Alejandra Valencia of Mexico 102-104 (26-28, 26-23, 27-28, 23-25) at the same venue.
The Indian men’s hockey team reached the quarter-finals after a gap of 36 years despite being beaten 1-2 by the Netherlands for their second loss in four Pool B games.
Rogier Hofman’s 32nd minute goal was cancelled out by Indian drag-flicker V.R. Raghunath in the 38th minute. Penalty corner specialist Mink van der Weerden scored the winner for the Dutchmen in the 54th minute.
Despite the loss, India made it to the quarter-finals as Argentina held Germany 4-4 later on Thursday. Lucas Vila (fourth minute), Pedro Ibarra (29th), Gonzalo Peillat (48th) and Matias Rey (57th) scored for Argentina while Timm Herzbruch (15th), Christopher Wesley (24th), Mats Grambusch (28th) and Mathias Muller (60th) replied for the Germans.
India last reached the quarter-finals at the 1980 Moscow Games where they won the last of their eight Olympic titles.
The men in blue have a total of six points, while the Netherlands and Germany are at the joint top spot in the pool with 10 points each.
India will play Canada in their final pool game here at the Olympic Hockey Centre in Deodoro Park on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Indian women’s hockey team continued their dismal campaign, suffering a 0-3 defeat to the US in a Pool B encounter.
Kathleen Bam (14th, 42nd minutes) struck twice for the Americans while Melissa Gonzalez (52nd) scored the third goal to hand the Indians their third consecutive defeat here on Thursday.
The Indians, who have qualified for the Olympics after a gap of 36 years, thus suffered their third loss in four matches.
They had start their campaign with a 2-2 draw against Japan before losing to Britain and Australia.
Meanwhile, in the boxing ring, Shiva was on the backfoot from the very beginning of the contest in Pavilion 6 at the Riocentro and was well beaten on points, losing all three rounds to Cuban Robeisy Ramirez 0-3.
The first round was won by the Cuban boxer 10-9, after some heavy hitting, in an unanimous decision by all the three judges.
Robeisy, the gold medal winner at the 2012 London Olympics in the flyweight category, continued his strong show to win the second round too, getting 10 from all the three judges while Shiva got 8,9 and 9.
Defeat in the first two rounds effectively ended Shiva’s chances. And Robeisy completed the rout, easily winning the third round too, with a 30-26 margin.
At the golf course, India’s Anirban Lahiri and S.S.P. Chawrasia scored three-over 74 and 71 respectively in the opening round.
World No.69 Lahiri got off to a poor start as he bogeyed the first hole. He continued to struggle by making bogeys on the sixth, eighth, 11th and 12th holes. He somehow recovered to make two birdies on 15th and 18th holes to bag a 74.
His teammate Chawrasia, however got off to a strong start, making birdies on the second and fifth. However, two bogeys on the seventh and 10th followed, disrupting the good work done in the beginning.