After putting up a tough fight against Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai, Sania Mirza and her partner Prarthana Thombare lost 7-6, 5-7, 7-5 in the first round of the women's doubles event in Rio. However, Mirza has backed her partner against media criticism and has urged everyone to support her.
Sania and Prarthana's exit only compounded India's miserable day in tennis, which also saw Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna being knocked out of the men's doubles event after a straight-sets defeat against the Polish pair of Marcin Matkowski and Lukasz Kubot.
Sania will still have a chance to redeem herself when she partners Bopanna in the mixed doubles event. Speaking about the expectation she has had to carry to Rio, Saina said, "India always wants gold for me no matter what I play. At the end of the day, we can just try. There is no guarantee in a sport. We can just try and give our best.”
After Sania and Prarthana's exit, the latter received a lot of criticism with her inexperience coming to the forefront during the tie. However, the World No.1 doubles player has backed her partner and has urged the media to refrain from 'attacking her'.
"Stop attacking her guys, she is 190 in the world. She has just played against the guys who are in top-50. Don't be so hard on her. We just played a two hours 44 minutes match against the people who are the best in the world. So are the other 15 teams. Rafael Nadal is also top 10. Everybody has an equal chance. Sure we have a shot at it.
"It is a tough competition that is why it is Olympics. We will try whatever we can to win a medal for India. If we don't win that is unfortunate but we will give our heart and soul.
"You must encourage her at the moment. She is playing against higher ranked players. All three people in that court are higher ranked. There were two former number one. One (Shuai Peng) was former number one and the current number one (Sania herself). It is a great experience for her.
"As athletes, we can fight our hearts out. That is what we did. You come up short on some days but I am happy that we are able to share this experience, especially for her. We tried our best.
"At this stage, my Olympics is still there. I have mixed doubles. I hope she realises that she can play against the best in the world and match them," Sania said, reported PTI.
When asked about Sachin Tendulkar's presence in the stands, the 29-year-old said, "I am honoured. He is our goodwill ambassador for the Olympics. It is so good for him to come and watch. Hope he is here for a few more days to watch a bit more tennis."
Mirza has also refused to write off Leander Paes, insisting he might very well make a comeback.
"It is very good. He is a great inspiration for all of us. To play one Olympics is a big achievement, it is unbelievable. I congratulate him but I don't think we should write him off. Everybody thought London 2012 was his last Olympics. Maybe he will be back. He is a great inspiration for all the athletes," Sania added.
"It was a great experience for me. I got to learn a lot today. It was a great match I wish I could help her (Sania) out a bit more," she said.
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