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India seal the deal

sports Updated: Apr 07, 2013 02:11 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

The newly-forged Indian doubles team — ‘Quick Hands’ Leander Paes and ‘Quick Feet’ Sanam Singh — killed off whatever little hope Indonesia were harbouring of fighting back in the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I relegation play-off tie. But for a change, it wasn’t the accomplished Paes, playing his 50th tie for India, but the fresh-faced Sanam who was the chief architect of the win.

Despite a late challenge by the visitors, Paes-Sanam prevailed 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 to give India an unassailable 3-0 lead. India’s top singles stars Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri had won their respective matches to put the team 2-0 ahead on Friday.

The evening opened with former players Ramanathan and Ramesh Krishnan, Anand Amritraj and Mahesh Bhupathi receiving ITF awards for commitment to Davis Cup, but it belonged to Sanam, 25, who looked every bit the part of such a rich lineage.

Paes and Sanam, standing at 5’10 and 5’8 respectively, could make a run for the shortest pair on the Tour, but with history, momentum and the noisy crowd right behind them, they dwarfed their rivals. Even as Paes took time to warm up, Sanam, playing his first doubles match for India, was quick to take the attack to the Indonesians.

Pace and movement
One of the new-generation players to have been brought up through the tough US collegiate system, Sanam’s biggest strength is his movement and pace.

He cracked a couple of stunning returns to help India get the break in the very first game of the match and remained relentless from the back of the court. “Sanam has got a superb return game, that’s how a lot of the modern doubles players play,” said Paes of his latest, and 94th doubles partner. “The only thing he needs to work on is his transition from the back of the court to the net. If he does that, there is no reason why he can’t be a phenomenal doubles player.”

That India got early breaks in all the three sets meant they were never really under any pressure.

But as the lights came on, the duo seemed to go off the boil a little in the third set. The Indonesians bagged their first break in the seventh game and levelled it 4-4, but with Susanto serving at 4-5, Sanam again came up with inspiring play.

At 0-40 at match point, he slammed a backhand down-the-line winner to seal the deal. The team thus secured their place in Asia Oceania Group I.

Sanam to play singles
With the tie already won, the team has decided to field Sanam in place of Somdev in the reverse singles on Sunday.