Old stays gold, Paes & Bhupathi in semis | sports | Hindustan Times
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Old stays gold, Paes & Bhupathi in semis

sports Updated: Jan 07, 2011 23:16 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

It was just the shot of energy that the Chennai Open needed. After a rickety ride in the first round, where they had to battle back from four match points down, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi went easy on their fans' nerves as they rolled into the semi-final of the tournament.

Though still some distance away from their best tennis, Paes-Bhupathi did enough to put away Germany's Philipp Marx and Ken Skupski of Great Britain - 6-4, 7-6 (3).

"We are getting better with every game," said Paes. "I was a little under the weather for the last couple of days, so I am happy I was able to turn it around on the court."

In the singles, top seed Tomas Berdych and former champion Xavier Malisse advanced to the last four.

Unlike his last two opponents, Slovakia's Blaz Kavcic refused to be run over by Berdych. The 23-year-old played some fearless tennis, but Berdych has been a class apart for this field so far and clinched a 6-3, 6-3 win in an hour and 24 minutes.

While Berdych has been impressive in each one of his outings at the Centre Court, Malisse has quietly built himself as a title challenger on the outside courts, away from the public glare.

The Belgian, who remains the only player to have claimed a double (singles and doubles title in the same year) in Chennai, crushed Germany's Bjorn Phau 6-0, 6-2. Phau had taken out fourth seed Richard Gasquet in the second round despite being a set and 2-5 down, but such a recovery looked bleak against the calm and collected Malisse.

Paes-Bhupathi, who had featured on the opening night, were playing their second round after a three-day break. But the Indians were quick to hit their stride. Though their opponents were armed with strong serves, there didn't have enough ammunition to bring it to two of the most experienced doubles players.

The Indians were cruising along after winning the first set and taking a 2-0 lead in the second, when their opponents staged a mini recovery.

"In the past 14 years, we have never made things easy for ourselves here," said Bhupathi. "A shank, a great return and a double fault, and they were back in the match."

Marx and Skupski held on tightly to push the set into the tie-break. But they lacked the touch and confidence to take it any further.

Paes-Bhupathi, the only remaining Indians in the tournament, will next play Croatia's Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig for a place in the final.