Lee-Hesh move ahead, but Saina, Champia falter (India Lead)

August 13th, 2008 - 7:12 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Roger Federer
By V. Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 13 (IANS) Veteran tennis duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi marched ahead to boost India’s sagging campaign after medal hopes of shuttler Saina Nehwal and archer Mangal Singh Champia abruptly ended at the Beijing Olympic Games Wednesday. Paes and Bhupathi stormed into the quarterfinal with a facile straight set 6-3, 6-2 victory over Brazilians Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa to remain in the medal fray on the fifth day of the competition here.

The Indian pair completely outclassed their formidable opponents, who have won three titles together and were expected to put up a fight, during the one-sided match lasting under 70 minute.

For a place in the semi finals, the former world number one combine Paes and Bhupathi will meet the winners of the second round battle between Swiss pair Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka and Russians Dmitry Turshunov and Mikhail Youzhny.

Much was expected of both Saina and Champia after their superb show earlier in the Games. While Saina accounted for world number six Chen Wang in the second round, Champia made the nation sit up with a second place finish in the ranking tournament. But both disappointed Wednesday.

Saina’s run was over after she seemed to be inching to victory in the women’s singles quarter-finals.

The 18-year-old prodigious talent from Hyderabad played amazingly well. However, she lapsed into errors in the later stages of the third and final game to lose the 64-minute battle resembling a wildly swinging pendulum 28-26, 14-21, 15-21 to Maria Kristin Yulianti of Indonesia at the Beijing University of Technology Gymnasium here.

In the end, it was Saina’s inexperience and inability to read what was going wrong at crucial stages that spelt disaster in a match where she was leading 11-3 in the decider.

“I didn’t realise the drift and I didn’t adjust to it. It was too late, by the time I realised what was going wrong,” said a very dejected Saina. “It was a good show, but frankly the match was mine.”

Speaking about her errors in the third game, she added: “I made a lot of mistakes and erred in judging the shuttle. In the third game, I was dog tired. I could not read the drift once I changed sides. On many occasions, I expected her shuttle to land outside and left it only to see it land inside. I just could not read that. That is also why I knocked a few shots wide and long.”

With Saina’s exit, the curtains came down on India’s badminton campaign as Anup Sridhar was out in the second round of the men’s singles competition Monday.

Archer Champia also caused a heartbreak losing in a close finish to lower ranked Russian Bair Badenov 108-109 in men’s individual pre-quarterfinal.

The Indian was at the wrong end of the day’s biggest upset as he lost to the 31st seed Badenov at the Olympic Archery Green.

With the Indian women archers already out of the race, Champia’s defeat brought India’s Olympics campaign in the discipline to an end.

One shot each of a mere seven points in the first two ends spelt disaster for Champia, who had five ’10s’ as compared to his rival’s four.

Earlier in the morning, Champia had got past Vaezi Hojjatullah of Iran 112-98. Champia shot five ’10s’ while his rival did not manage any.

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