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Paes-Bhupathi clinch gold as India bag four medals in tennis

Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi proved they could still rework their old magic when they struck gold on Friday as India bagged four medals from tennis events.

india Updated: Oct 11, 2002 20:46 IST

Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi proved they could still rework their old magic when they struck gold on their brief reunion at the Asian Games here today as India bagged four medals from tennis events at the Geumjeong stadium.

Once the world's top doubles team but only estranged partners now, Paes and Bhupathi, reproduced their peak-time understanding and compatibility to brush aside the challenge of South Korean pair of Hee Seok Chung and Hyung Taik Lee in the final of men's doubles.

The Indians carved out a 6-2 6-3 victory in just over an hour of magical tennis that Paes said reminded him of the pair's Grand Slam exploits.

The chemistry that still exists between Paes and Bhupathi was lacking when Bhupathi took court with Manisha Malhotra in the mixed doubles final. Bhupathi and Malhotra squandered two match-points to lose 4-6 6-3 9-7 to Yen Hsun Lu and Jent Whids Lee of Chinese Taipei. The Indians had to settle for sivler after and two and a half hours of hard work.

Two bronze medals also came India's way for their team's semi-final appearances in men's doubles and mixed doubles.

Vishal Uppal and Mustafa Ghouse took the bronze medal in men's doubles after having lost to South Korean duo of Hee Seok Chung and Hyung Taik Lee in the semi-finals yesterday.

Paes and Sania Mirza also got bronze for progressing to the last four of mixed doubles where they lost to Chinese Taipei's Lee and Lu yesterday.

Paes and Bhupathi, who received vociferous support of a sizeable number of Indian fans, were never really stretched by the South Koreans.

The Indian pair turned the heat on straightway by breaking their rivals in the third and fifth games to wrap up the first set 6-2 and take control of the proceedings.

They maintained the momentum in the second set also, forcing a break in the very first game and then provided the finishing touches by breaking their opponents again in the ninth game to win 6-3.

"This is one gold that I will cherish for a long time," Paes said after the win.

"Our experience of having played together for seven years helped overcome the pre-tournament concerns... Once the Games started, we gelled well," said Paes after the win.

"It was not an easy match. The opponents were of top quality... It was a matter of keeping our standards high," Paes said and immediately set his sights on the next Olympic Games at Athens in 2004.

"With my passion for the Olympics I definitely want to be in Athens," said the star player who already has an Olympic bronze won in the singles event in Atlanta'96.

Bhupathi, however, failed to claim a double, losing the thrilling mixed doubles which he and Malhotra should have won comfortably.

In a match with fluctuating fortunes, the Indian and Chinese Taipei pairs shared the first two sets to go into the decider.

Bhupathi and Manisha had no difficulty in wrapping up the first set but their rivals staged a brilliant comeback by taking the second, capitalising on a few unforced errors by the Indians.

In the decider where there is no tie-break, both the teams played their hearts out as they went neck and neck till 7-7 before the Chinese Taipei players turned the table on the Indians. The Indians enjoyed two break points leading 6-5 in the third set but they squandered them and had to ultimately end on the losing side.

First Published: Oct 11, 2002 20:46 IST