Neither the three-hour rain delay nor their fearless young opponents were enough to halt the Indian Express. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi clinched another “routine” doubles victory to put India 2-1 ahead against the Chinese Taipei in the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I round one tie on Saturday.
The top Indian duo beat Tsung-Hua Yang and Chu-Huan Yi 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-2 to extend their record unbeaten streak in Davis Cup to 22.
“This was just another match for us,” said Bhupathi after the tie. “We are expected to win every time we step on the court.” The Indians seemed on track for a quick job, as they broke in the opening game of the match and repeated the script in the second set.
But then the Taipei duo played fearless tennis and made some remarkable returns to break the Indians. They seemed to play their best when they were down in the set. They took the second set to a tiebreak, which Lee-Hesh won without dropping a point.
Despite the positive outcome, the gumption of the young Chinese Taipei duo was increasingly frustrating the Indians. Back-to-back double faults by Paes in the fourth game saw the hosts take lead. Yang-Yi then stretched the lead to 5-1.
This is when the Lee-Hesh magic came to the fore. They leveled at 5-5.
Though the momentum was firmly with the Indians, the Taipei players managed to hold on and win the tiebreak 7-2. This gave a glimmer of hope to the host camp, but only for a minute.
Paes and Bhupathi quickly shattered any such illusions. They outclassed their young opponents, exposing the gap that experience alone can fill, in the fourth set to take it 6-2.
The onus will be back to India's new generation on Sunday, as Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna look to garner at least a point in their reverse singles. With the pressure squarely on the hosts, the tie is now India's to lose. (The writer is a former Davis Cup player)
Result: Leander Paes/Mahesh Bhupathi beat Tsung-Hua Yang/Chu-Huan Yi 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-2.