Special Correspondent

BEIJING: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi got off to a rousing start to their fourth Olympic campaign with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon of France, on a pleasant evening under clear blue skies on Court No. 7 at the Olympic Green Tennis Centre here on Tuesday.

Watched by the ardent tennis followers in the Indian contingent, Paes and Bhupathi warmed up for the tougher challenges ahead with a delightful performance of power and grace. They had to turn on the intensity straightaway against the talented opposition that made the mistake of resorting to power. Bhupathi even ducked below the net to let go a flat drive by Monfils, who was often found wrong-footed in the back court by the deft placing of the crafty Indians.

Communicating in Hindi and outdoing each other with a sharp and subtle game, Paes and Bhupathi emphasised that they were still among the best of entertainers in the world of doubles.

The Indian pair served and volleyed with élan — dropping only seven points in all of their service games in the whole match.

The first set was won on a break of Simon’s serve in the fourth game; and it was one way free flow from 3-3 in the second set, as both the Frenchmen were broken in succession for a quick finish to the contest that lasted an hour.

The Indian duo will be challenged by Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa of Brazil who took out the Czech combination of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek with a 5-7, 6-2, 8-6 win.

Sania to play doubles

Meanwhile, Sania Mirza, nursing a painful wrist, will attempt to play the doubles second round with Sunitha Rao after the Indian pair got a walkover from France’s Tatiana Golovin and Pauline Parmentier, following Golovin’s withdrawal.

Sania had conceded the singles midway through the first round on Monday as she could not cope with pain in the wrist that had undergone surgery a few months ago. Though an MRI proved inconclusive, treatment has been put off to give her a chance to play the doubles, possibly against the top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina of Russia.

Agencies add

In men’s singles, No. 1-seeded Roger Federer beat Rafael Arevalo of Spain 6-2, 6-4 while Rafael Nadal defeated Australian Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 6-2. Third-seeded Novak Djokovic also advanced with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Rainer Schuettler.

Serena Williams raced into the third round beating Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-2, 6-0, while Venus beat Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4.

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