India’s focus on day eight will be centered around tennis mixed doubles pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna who are to take on the US pair of Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram on Saturday night in the semi finals at the Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
India’s sagging fortunes in the Games got a major boost with Sania and Bopanna cruising into the mixed doubles semis in tennis on day seven of competitions while Vikas Kishan punched his way into the boxing quarterfinals.
Their dominant show came on a day when shooters continued to misfire, archers shot way off the mark while shuttlers and track and field athletes performed below par at this Brazilian city.
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 tonight, over US star Venus and her Indian-origin partner Rajeev in the semis will ensure India a silver medal while a defeat would give Sania and Bopanna a chance to fight for the bronze.
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.
Former Asian Games gold medal winner Vikas seemed the more assured boxer and will face his stiffest challenge against Bektemir Melikuziev of Uzbekistan, who has also beaten the Indian in the final of the 2015 Asian Championships, on Sunday and a win will ensure the Indian a bronze medal.
Prior to these bright spots, India did not have anything to cheer about.
The men’s hockey team, already assured of a berth in the quarterfinals, led twice against lowly Canada before allowing their rivals to bounce back and earn a 2-2 draw in their concluding pool game.
They will meet Group A champions Belgium in the quarterfinals on Sunday.
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. They will continue their participation on Saturday.
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 best throw of 58.99 metres and was eliminated.
Later the tale of misery continued with quarter miler Mohammed Anas, half miler Jinson Johnson, the trio of 20km race walkers — Gurmeet Singh, Manish Singh Rawat and Krishnan Ganapathy, long jumper Ankit Sharma and woman sprinter Dutee Chand bowing out without causing a ripple.
Today women steeplechasers Lalita Babar and Sudha Singh, along with woman quarter miler Nirmala Sheoran will be striving to advance from preliminaries.
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.
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 poor show of shooters continued on day one of the two-day men’s skeet and 25m rapid fire events where Mairaj and Gurpreet were lying behind the field but have a chance to atone today.
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.
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 of the four-round stroke play competition.