Paes-Bopanna seal the deal

Under the spotlight for their personal differences, Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna, combined effortlessly on their favourite surface to hand India an unassailable 3-0 lead over South Korea in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group 1 tie on Saturday.

The victory assured India a place in World Group play-offs and made the two reverse singles scheduled on Sunday redundant. The city woke up to overcast skies and cooler conditions, as a prelude to heavy showers. But the predicted rain kept away, once again. The soft breeze tempered down the extreme conditions that had resulted in cramping of players on Friday. The Indian pair, unwilling to be tested by the elements, swiftly packed up the proceedings against Hong Chung and Seong-Chan Hong with a dominating 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

"We are playing well. Even if the competition was tough, we could have raised the level of our game," said Paes who will partner Bopanna at Rio Olympics.

The presence of superstars of Indian tennis ensured the stands of Chandigarh Club were overflowing with spectators, who enjoyed every bit of action. The grass, now dry in absence of rain, offered favourable bounce and the two regaled the spectators with their craft and soft touches during their hour and 40 minutes' stay.

The comfort of Paes on grass was evident. The deft placements, quick reflexes, the crispness of his volleys made him stand apart. Not for nothing does he top the Indian Davis Cup charts, be it most singels win-loss (89-33) record or the most doubles wins (41 wins to 11 losses). At times, the fluency with which he put away the returns at the net, he appeared to be imparting volleying lessons to the young, diminutive Koreans.

Bopanna, with his bazooka serves, rapidly wrapped up his service games, and even effected superb interjections at net. The two moved on grass with consummate ease and were hardly challenged. It was a far cry from the lack of fight and rhythm the two showed in their previous tie against Czech Republic in September last.

Decent show

Koreans put up a decent show. Seong-Chan, who had to be lifted out of court due to cramps in the first singles, had recovered for this contest and impressed with his touch at the net. With the left-handed Chung, he produced appreciable fare although it was such a heavily one-sided contest that it prompted some of the local fans to root for the visitors!

Paes and Bopanna, though, were not going to fiddle. The two broke the serve of Seong-Chan in the eighth game. Paes ended a brief net sparring with a beautiful backhand volley winner for a break point and Bopanna converted it into a break with a sharp intercept. Bopanna then closed out the set with an ace.

The Indians seized early initiative in the second set when they again broke Seong-Chan, this time in the third game, with Paes lending the finishing touches by softly scooping a backhand volley winner.

The third set saw Bopanna facing two break points besides Paes dropping his serve, but these blips turned out to be insignificant in the canvas of their magnificent performance. If at all, the Indian pair displayed to the visitors the art and skill of playing on grass. They, later, deservedly led the Indian pack in the victory march, flaunting the Tricolor, with hundreds jumping over the fence to get near to them.

Source: Deccan Herald

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