The Indian pair pulls one back with victory in the doubles rubber
They have done it against the best of teams around the world. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi extended their impressive record as they toyed with Davis Cup novices Teimuraz Gabashvili and Igor Kunitsyn to win 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory in the doubles rubber of the World Group first round tennis here on Saturday.
In an entertaining display, Paes and Bhupathi made short work of winning a rubber for India, as the pair raced through in an hour and 36 minutes.
“Leander and Mahesh were absolutely superb today. They played flawless tennis and I have not seen them play this well for a long time. They took early lead in every set and kept the pressure on the opponents who were not bad at all,” said a delighted Indian captain S.P. Misra.
After having endured the first day when Somdev Devvarman had raised visions of victory against Igor Kunitsyn before tumbling to defeat in four sets, it was short and sweet for the visiting team.
“If Somdev had taken the second set against Kunitsyn yesterday, it would have been a different story. Somdev was in command at 5-2 in the second set after having won the first. He could not close it out, and it was quite uncharacteristic of him,” said the Indian captain.
Russia needs one win
The clinical doubles victory would give Devvarman a chance to play a ‘live' rubber against the Russian No.1 Mikhail Youzhny, the World No. 13. Russia, leading 2-1, needs one more rubber to seal victory and enter the quarterfinals of the elite league.
“It will be tough for Somdev against Youzhny. Of course, he is capable of beating higher ranked opponents.
“We will keep our fingers crossed,” said Misra, suggesting that nothing could be ruled out in Davis Cup.
The Russian doubles team did play a good game, but lacked the experience to tackle the team of the calibre of Paes and Bhupathi who have won 10 Grand Slam doubles titles between them, including three as a pair.
Paes and Bhupathi were a class act, even as the Russians literally played into their hands, not realising the efficiency of the deft touch and the delightful angles.
It was the 24th straight victory for Paes and Bhupathi who have not lost a Davis Cup doubles rubber as a team after 1996 when they were beaten by Swedes Jonas Bjorkman and Nicklas Kulti.
In fact, the crack combination has lost only two Davis Cup rubbers as a team in 16 years, with the other defeat having come against another world-class pair — Dutchmen Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis — on grass in Jaipur in 1996.
Paes has a 37-9 doubles win-loss record in Davis Cup, while Bhupathi has a record of 25-6.
The last defeat for Paes and Bhupthi as a team had come at the hands of the eventual gold medallists Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in the quarterfinals of the Beijing Olympics two years ago.