Lee-Hesh turn back clock as India seal issue
Keeping their personal differences aside, captain Paes and Bhupathi came together — their last appearance was at the 2006 Doha Asian Games where they clinched gold, reports Deepika Sharma.sports Updated: Apr 13, 2008 00:57 IST
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi had not been on the same side of the court for a long time.
On Saturday, they provided everyone a sight to relish. The former Wimbledon champions got back on track to give India a 3-0 victory over Japan in the Davis Cup tie on Saturday.
Japan’s hopes of staying alive in the tie were wiped off by the ‘still lethal’ Indian duo who got past Satoshi Iwabuchi and Takao Suzuki 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in an over three hour long match.
India have got closer to the coveted World Group. If they win the next tie, a World Group play-off in September, they will enter the elite 16-team clique.
Keeping their personal differences aside, captain Paes and Bhupathi came together — their last appearance was at the 2006 Doha Asian Games where they clinched gold — in a match where they faced a stiff resistance from the experienced Japanese duo.
Though the chest-bumps were missing, the magic of the Lee-Hesh pair never subsided.
Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj’s inspiring performances on Friday gave India a 2-0 lead. That made the job easier for Paes and Bhupathi.
India last played in a World Group play-off in 2005, when they lost 1-3 against Sweden.
Bhupathi’s reliable serves and solid returns could be seen throughout the match. His partner, on the other hand, proved a tricky opponent on the net.
Suzuki, who at 32 was the youngest player amongst the four on the court, also impressed with his stinging groundstrokes and got able support from his partner Iwabuchi.
Bhupathi fired a couple of aces to start the match. But the Japanese duo, who won the 2005 Japan Open, looked rock-solid in the opening set. Both the teams held serve and headed into a tie-break.
But here, Takao and Iwabuchi proved vulnerable. They conceded a point each on their serve to give India a 5-2 lead. Bhupathi’s two powerful first serves —Iwabuchi managed to return the second but Paes killed it with a superb high backhand volley —helped India win the set 7-6 (2).
The second set turned out to be a different story altogether. With the visitors maintaining pressure, the Indians began to face the brunt. In the third game, 40-30 up, Bhupathi committed four double faults.
But his serve once again did the saving act, helping him level 2-2 despite the six deuces. Suzuki and Iwabuchi knew they had to keep fighting. They did just that, breaking Paes’s serve in the sixth game. They held serve to level the match at a set apiece.
It was a wake up call for the Indian duo. They found their rhythm and shifted the momentum back to their side. They looked pumped up and played exceedingly well to win the next two sets and the match.
Paes and Bhupathi shared a light hug as they ran towards their team members to celebrate a victory that came in uneasy and controversial circumstances.