Melbourne: As always, Indian tennis players will have a strong representation in doubles at this year’s Australian Open that starts at Melbourne Park on Monday.
Top stars like Sania Mirza, Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi along with Purav Raja will compete in doubles in the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.
The only Indian representation in singles will be Yuki Bhambri, who has an extremely tough outing in his men’s singles opener where he will be up against Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych.
Going past the 2010 Wimbledon finalist, who has reached the semifinals here for the last two years, will be quite a tough task for the 23-year-old Delhi youngster. Bhambri will be the only Indian in action on Monday at the Margaret Court Arena.
On the other hand, Indians have quite a strong presence in doubles. Though the mixed doubles draw isn’t out yet, Paes, along with his Swiss partner Martina Hingis, are strong favourites to defend their title.
As expected, Hingis has been seeded No.1 with Mirza in women’s doubles. The world’s top ranked pair is in top form, having won 30 matches in a row.
To add to it, they have now won seven straight tournaments, including both their preparation tournaments for the Australian Open in Brisbane and Sydney.
The two will be taking on the unseeded Colombian-Brazilian pair of Mariana Duque-Marino and Teliana Pereira in the first round.
In men’s doubles, once partners Paes and Bhupathi have been grouped in the same half of the draw. Paes will partner French Jeremy Chardy and the pair will take on Colombian 12th seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
While on the other hand, Bhupathi will partner Gilles Müller of Luxembourg and two will face the local pair of Alex Bolt and Andrew Whittington in their opener.
In the lower half of the draw, India’s best hope Rohan Bopanna has been seeded fourth with Romanian Florin Mergea. They too will be going up against another local pair of Omar Jasika and Nick Kyrgios.
Bopanna and Mergea had a strong 2015 and they have started off the New Year by finishing runners-up at the Sydney International on Saturday. The pair is expected to go the distance and challenge top teams.
The last Indian in the men’s doubles draw is Purav Raja, who has teamed up with big serving Croatian Ivo Karovic. The combine will face Moldovan-Korean team of Radu Albot and Hyeon Chung.