Binoo K. John
India's star tennis doubles players, Rohan Bopanna pairing Pable Cuevas of Peru and Sania Mirza pairing with her new partner Barbora Strycova of Czech Republic, advanced to the second round with little difficulty on the third day of the Australian Open.
Bopanna and Cuevas, who is seeded 15th, won 6-4 and 7-6, while Sania and Strycova too won in straight sets 6-3, 6-1, against Rae and Smith of Britain. Bopanna and Cuevas will now take on Australians Alex Bolt and Bradley Mousley, who defeated Robin Haase and Florian Mayer 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
Both Bopanna and Sania will have some problem areas to fix before the next round in a highly competitive doubles schedule.
Bopanna's awesome backhand returns and his serve worked well while his Peruvian partner worked some magic at the net.
The second set went to the tie-break due to some rough hitting by Cuevas but with Bopanna's calm approach they got through in the tie breaker.
Their Latin American opponents Belluci of Brazil and Gonsalez of Argentina tried to smother Bopanna's back hand shots but not with much success.
Bellucci was a formidable opponent from the baseline but Cuevas met him effectively at the net after some initial hiccups.
The fourth seed Indo-Czech pairing of Sania and Barbora will next play the winners of the first round match between the Australian pair of Kimberly Birrell-Priscilla Hon and the Aussie-China team of Samantha Stosur and Shuai Zhang.
Sania later told IANS that she was happy with the way her partnership with Barbora was shaping up.
"We reached four finals out of six tournaments and we are working well together. Strycova is a fighter and she is in great shape. The conditions here are not too good with temperatures fluctuating wildly and every match is going to be tough. It was very windy today but we pulled it off," she said.
Sania also revealed that she and Barbora were committed to play this year and hoped that they would come out on top in her post-Martina Hingis career. Barbora plays singles too and so Sania said they had to adjust a lot to each other's style of play.
(Binoo K. John is a senior journalist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)