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Vardhan's Olympic Odyssey

London, England

Vardhan© AFP/Getty ImagesVishnu Vardhan lost to Blaz Kavcic in the singles first round at the London 2012 Olympics Tennis Event on Monday, but then partnered fellow Indian Leander Paes to victory in the doubles.

Vishnu Vardhan arrived at the London 2012 Olympics Tennis Event thinking he was going to compete with his childhood hero in the doubles competition at the All England Club, Wimbledon.

On Sunday morning, the 25-year-old Indian found out he had earned a spot as a late replacement for Philipp Kohlschreiber in the singles event.

“The day before, Leander [Paes] called me late in the evening,” said Vardhan. “He told me Kohlschreiber was going to pull out and as I was the highest ranked player on-site that I should go and sign-up first thing in the morning.

“I was not really aware of it, so I would like to thank him for the opportunity. Leander was really pleased I could play in the singles, to give me match preparation before the doubles.”

The World No. 304 lost to Blaz Kavcic 6-3, 6-2 in 72 minutes on Monday. “I was not very consistent in my performance throughout the match, but I am happy with bits and pieces, in patches, such as my serve and a few volleys,” he said. “But in the end, Kavcic was too good for me. I would like to congratulate him on the win.

“It’s a great experience for me. I have never played at Wimbledon. I was not a good enough junior to play on these courts.”

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Vardhan had been making the most of his Olympic experience. “The Opening Ceremony was a great experience and I will cherish the memory for the rest of my life. It’s the pinnacle for any sportsman to play at the Olympics. Personally, I feel it is the biggest event for any athlete."

But when Kohlschreiber pulled out with a right hamstring injury, having finished runner-up at the bet-at-home Cup Kitzbühel on Saturday, Vardhan needed to focus on his singles game.

“I feel really privileged to be able to play in first the doubles and now the singles, as not many Indians have played in the Olympic singles," he said. "I am really proud to have done so.”

Leander Paes, Vardhan’s doubles partner in London, won a singles bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Vardhan is now motivated to improve his position in the South African Airways ATP Rankings.

“Playing at the Olympics will motivate me a lot to move up the rankings,” he admitted. “I got into tennis when I was nine years old, when Leander won the singles bronze medal in Atlanta. It really inspired me to take up tennis, so to compete with the same player at the Olympics [this year] is a big motivation.”

When asked what he intends to work on, Vardhan, who plays predominantly on the ITF Futures Tour, said, “Fitness is something that is very important. I need to get stronger to establish myself and compete on tour. Lots of people say I have a complete game, but I need to be sharper. Playing some high level matches like today will help me do that.”

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