Sport

Vintage Paes delights the crowd

In his element: Leander Paes showcased his repertoire of shots as he and Matthew Ebden beat back the challenge of Blaz Rola and Zhizhen Zhang.

In his element: Leander Paes showcased his repertoire of shots as he and Matthew Ebden beat back the challenge of Blaz Rola and Zhizhen Zhang.  

He may be 46 and at the fag end of his career, but the Leander Paes show is still going strong. Paes, partnering Australian Matthew Ebden, unfurled his full bag of tricks to record a 7-6(2), 6-4 win over Zhang Zhizhen and Blaz Rola in the first round of the $1,62,000 Bengaluru Open ATP Tennis Challenger here on Wednesday.

With Ebden low on energy after a gruelling three-set loss in the singles event earlier in the day, it was left to Paes to do the heavy lifting. The Indian was up to the task, delighting the crowd with a magical display.

Paes prowled the net, using a deft touch to place his volleys in the far corners of the court. When required, he swiftly moved across the net to cover the angle. On one occasion, Paes was completely wrong-footed, but showed great reflexes to stretch his hands out to make sweet contact.

In the second set, down 1-3 and 0-40, Paes unleashed his famous fighting spirit. Riding on crowd support, Paes managed to hold serve, before Paes-Ebden broke back to make it 3-3. From here on, Zhizhen and Rola simply wilted under pressure.

Paes made one last electric play, showing great anticipation to cover a thunderous smash from Rola. Paes managed to get the ball back in play, and Rola — shocked that the point had not ended — made an unforced error. A short while later, Paes-Ebden sealed the win, and Paes blew celebratory kisses to the fans at the KSLTA Stadium.

For Ebden, the chance to be a part of Paes’ swansong was too good to miss. “I’ve been playing on the tour for many years, so I wanted to find some spark and excitement. As soon as I found out that Leander was set to retire at the end of the year, I texted him saying, ‘Lee, I heard you’re playing some tournaments in India. I’m coming over, let’s play together’. I’m honoured to be a part of this,” Ebden said.

In the singles section, Indian southpaw Prajnesh Gunneswaran opened his campaign with 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win over World No. 609 Sebastian Fanselow of Germany. In another second round match, Ramkumar Ramanathan brushed aside qualifier Abhinav Shanmugam in straight sets.

The results: Singles: Second round: Prajnesh Gunneswaran bt Sebastian Fanselow (Ger) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4; Ramanathan Ramkumar bt Abhinav Shanmugam 6-1, 6-3; Mohamed Safwat (Egy) bt Matthew Ebden (Aus) 7-6(5), 6-7(1), 7-5; Sidharth Rawat bt Rishi Reddy 6-2, 6-2; Benjamin Bonzi (Fra) bt Nikola Milojevic (Srb) 6-4, 6-1; Frederico Ferreira Silva (Por) bt Kimmer Coppejans (Bel) 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

Doubles: First round: Saketh Myneni & Matt Reid (Aus) bt B.R. Nikshep & Vasisht Cheruku 6-3, 6-1; Andre Goransson (Swe) & Christopher Rungkat (Ina) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran & Sumit Nagal 6-3, 6-4; Matthew Ebden (Aus) & Leander Paes bt Blaz Rola (Slo) & Zhizhen Zhang (Chn) 7-6(2), 6-4.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 11:48:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/vintage-paes-delights-the-crowd/article30803619.ece

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