In a clinical straight-set decimation of the Korean doubles challenge, Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna ensured that India take an unassailable lead in their Davis Cup tie on the low-bounding damp courts at the Chandigarh Club. With India ahead 3-0, the reverse singles now become redundant as far as the fate of this tie goes.
Indian Davis Cup team captain Anand Amritraj wasn’t too happy before the tie that his singles players did not seem to be getting any attention from the press. Often in the past, the younger players have expressed similar reservations to your correspondent. Apart from the news worthiness of talking to two veterans who had been publically squabbling, the fact of the matter is that as compared to the rest of the team Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna are rock stars. The makeshift stands that were bare on Friday were teeming today with spectators spilling into the aisles. The threat of rain has been hanging over this tie and the looming clouds and cool breeze suggested that it was just a matter of time before the deluge hit. The Indians seemed to be in a hurry to wrap things up before that happened. In the meanwhile it made for a pleasant atmosphere to watch tennis with the sapping humidity of the day before tempered by the breeze today.
On Saturday Paes-Bopanna proved just why the press and the public at large look out for them. It was a clinical execution of doubles tennis as the two took apart the tepid challenge of Koreans Hong Chung and Seong-Chan Hong 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. It’s not that the Indians couldn’t have made the scoreline more skewed in their favour, it’s just that they never felt threatened enough to bother pressing harder on the accelerator. Hong seemed none the worse from his severe cramping on Friday and his recovery exemplifies the kind of hard-core fitness regimen that the Koreans have.
That Bopanna lost just a single point on his serve in the second set while Paes lost two goes to illustrate the kind of control the two had over the encounter. However, Paes went on to be broken once in the third though that seemed to signal more of a lapse of concentration on the part of the Indians than losing their hold on the match. They broke back immediately to assert their control. Minimal effort and maximum effectiveness seemed to be the credo of the Indian duo as they almost effortlessly controlled the course of the match.
Paes exhibited just why he has been such a potent force on grass at home. The veteran holds his racquet face open with a continental grip. This allows him to hit off both flanks with alacrity minus the need to change grips. That significantly reduces his reaction time. Ideally, tennis demands different grips for each stroke. It’s the continental alone which can be used to execute almost all shots -- including serve, volley and smash – even though it does not allow for tremendous power generation off the forehand flank. Its best attribute is its adaptability to errant bounce. Now, bad bounce is quite the norm on these courts and its Paes uncanny ability to use this grip with such great effect that makes him the most effective player on this surface in India.
At times, the Indian duo seemed to be toying with their opponents with deft placements that allowed the crowd to voice their hearty approval. It made for superb watching for the home crowd as the Indian pair was rampant against an opposition which was nowhere close to being in the reckoning.