Dominant India seal the deal

Dominant India seal the deal

Tennis Davis Cup: Hosts take unassailable lead with doubles win

Dominant India seal the deal
Indians ushered in the new era under captain Mahesh Bhupathi on a rousing note, taking an unassailable 3-0 lead over a hapless Uzbekistan in the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I round two tie here on a balmy Saturday evening.

With their tails up after their two singles players put them in a commanding position on Friday, debutant N Sriram Balaji and seasoned campaigner Rohan Bopanna dished out a perfect duet to vanquish Farrukh Dustov and Sanjar Fayziev  6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in less than two hours at the KSLTA courts and power India into the World Group play-offs.

With 40 rubbers under his belt, 37-year-old Bopanna is a veteran but at 27 years of age, Balaji was making his first appearance in the tournament dubbed the World Cup of tennis. Having not played hitherto together, there were questions over how this new pairing would work in Bhupathi’s master plan to focus more on singles players than having a specialist doubles pairing.

Balaji and Bopanna answered all the questions in emphatic fashion much to the delight of the half-filled stadium and the captain. Both served brilliantly with Balaji hardly showing any nerves whatsoever. He repeatedly kept firing 200 kmph plus bombers to match Bopanna serve-for-serve.

Balaji was fantastic with his shot-making as well. He was powerful from back of the court, smashing backhands and forehands at will, and was good at the net too, pulling off some very good volleys to leave the Uzbeks flat-footed. He impressed with his court presence too, knowing when exactly to move forward or backward.

Balaji also communicated very well with Bopanna. He responded to all of his partner’s calls perfectly and made some good judgements on his own as well. This made things extremely easy for Bopanna who just had to focus on his own game rather than having to constantly watch over a junior partner beset by nerves.

Bopanna and Balaji didn't face a single break point but created eight and won five of it. They rifled in 16 aces and kept the unforced errors to a bare minimum. Solid, powerful and playing with a purpose they simply kept blossoming with each passing game to completely sweep away the Uzbeks.

Targeting Fayziev
Bopanna and Balaji were also smart in targeting Fayziev’s serve. They broke him first to take a 3-1 lead in the opening set and then broke the 22-year again to take the set 6-2. The Uzbeks responded strongly in the second set but the Indians cinched the crucial break in the 10th game to take the set and a huge step towards victory.

Completely down and out, both Dustov and Fayziev just didn't turn up in the third set as Bopanna and Bhupathi broke them at will. In quick time, the Indians had galloped to a 5-0 lead to all but seal the deal.

Fayziev somehow managed to hold his serve to gain a semblance of pride but Bopanna polished it off quickly with Balaji fittingly hitting a backhand volley winner.

Result: India lead Uzbekistan 3-0 (N Sriram Balaji/ Rohan Bopanna bt Farrukh Dustov/ Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, 6-1).