Leander-Rikl win; rain stops Mahesh-Mirnyi
You think Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will get sound sleep tonight? Chances are remote, as they are likely to face off in the men's doubles semi-finals on Thursday.Updated: Jul 03, 2003 00:45 IST
You think Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will get sound sleep tonight? Chances are remote, as the former buddies are likely to face off against each other in the men's doubles semi-finals at The Championships on Thursday.
Leander Paes and David Rikl were confidence personified late on Tuesday night when they taught the Bryan twins -- Bob and Mike -- that doubles was more than just serving big and going for the shots. The 3,000 plus spectators loved every minute of the contest, and the final scoreline of 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3 in favour of Leander and Rikl was an indicator of how well the fifth seeds played.
This was a match where the stakes were high. Leander and Rikl had lost to the third seeded Americans in the semi-finals at the French Open. However top seeds Mahesh and Max Mirnyi looked far from impressive.
On Wednesday, Mahesh and Mirnyi struggled to find rhythm against highly motivated Martin Damm and Cyril Suk as they won the first two sets 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/3) when rain stopped play for the fourth time.
Having lost to Leander and Rikl at the French Open quarter-finals, for once, this pair looked out of depth. Mirnyi is known as the Beast on the Tour, but struggled with his game. Partner Mahesh could not fire those big returns and as a result the duo missed several chances of winning the first two sets without having to go through tie-breaks. If Mirnyi and Mahesh do come through this match, they would be itching to have a go at Leander and Rikl. The word 'revenge' is taboo now.
Playing at anything less than 100 per cent does not suffice against Mike and Bob Bryan. They combine well, pack a lot of punch in their shots and are very aggressive. What the twins had not bargained for was perhaps the conditions. There were quite a few instances when Mike and Bryan were unable to make those dives for balls skimming the net, or retrieve the soft volleys which Rikl and Paes hit with sheer artistry.
The return of serve is a very important weapon in doubles. And on Tuesday night, even though there were more fans rooting for the twins, it did not help them in raising their own level of play as far as making the returns were concerned. Leander's serve has been of a high order this fortnight. There was never a moment of uncertainty, barring the second set tie-break where he threw in a double fault.
The same could be said of Rikl. The left-hander is a no frills pro. Rikl's body language is deceptive. He does not come across as a player who can actually intimidate opponents on court. But pair him with someone as pumped up as Leander, even the Czech's adrenaline starts flowing. The duels at the net which the Americans were engaged in against the winning pair was a dream. Sharp angles, cunning placement, and sudden change of pace. Almost all you wanted to see, the Indian-Czech pair churned out much to the discomfiture of the Bryan twins.
Statistics become quite irrelevant in doubles when you have one combination performing like a symphony. Yet, the fact Leander or Rikl did not lose serve even once was proof they are playing at their peak.
"Mate, it feels great to be back in the zone and playing with such intensity,"said Leander inside the locker room where there were other players as well praising the effort of the fifth seeds.
In the first set, Mike and Bryan lost their serve once each. In the second set, there was no break of serve. Momentum swung in favour of the Americans after Leander hit a double fault and sent a low volley into the net making the score 3-0 for the Bryans. Still, Leander and Rikl did not give up, and clawed their way back till 5-6. Last point in the tie-break, Rikl hit a volley which kissed the tape and rolled back. No disappointment. Leander and Rikl broke for a 3-1 lead in the third set when the Atlanta Olympics bronze medalist dazzled with his audacious display.
Having mesmerised their opponents, there was no looking back for Leander and Rikl. In the decider, Mike's serve was broken in the second game itself. It was a cruise after that.
First Published: Jul 03, 2003 00:45 IST