Paes-Bhupathi nail Japan to give India 3-0 lead

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New Delhi, Apr 12: Putting their differences aside, the formidable Indian duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi nailed Japan to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the Asia Oceania second round match played at R K Khanna stadium here today.

In a grueling encounter that lasted for three hours 43 minutes, the 'Indian Express' humbled the Japanese pair of Takao Suzuki and Satoshi Iwabuchi 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to move in to the World Group play-offs. Paes and his three-time Grand Slam partner Bhupathi finished the first set with a tie breaker which underlined the Indians' superiority. India was leading the tie breaker 6-2 when a backhand smash from Paes, which had no answer from the Japanese duo, clinched the 46 minute dual.

The combination of Bhupathi's baseline game with Paes' volleying came as a delight to the Indian fans who had come here to see the Indian duo on court together after a long time which was marred by various controversies.

However, Japan was in no mood to give up without a fight and the fourth game of the second set saw both teams sharing four advantages each other but Bhupathi finally managed to hold his serve.

In the sixth game, Japan capitalized on a break point and broke Paes to lead the set 4-2 and put to rest all speculations of a lopsided affair.

The Indian captain missed out on three relatively easy volleys to put Japan in lead while the big serving Bhupathi held his serve throughout the match.

India broke Iwabuchi twice in the third and fourth set.Both of them came in the seventh games while it was Paes whose serve was broken in the second game, thanks to a strong backhand volley by Suzuki.

Double faults could be a matter of concern for India, especially Bhupathi who was found wanting on more than a few occasions when it mattered. His made six unforced errors in comparison to Paes' two.

The Indian's claimed the third set in just 36 minutes to put Japan under pressure as the 'Indian Express' showed great tennis skills in tandem. Both players were oozing confidence as Paes fired seven aces while Bhupathi hit five in comparison to Japan's seven of which five aces came off Suzuki's racquet.

The fourth set too, came India's way as the Japan found it hard to figure out Paes and Bhupathi's game plan. Both the Indians were back to their usual self but for the chest bumps which the two are famous for.

Although India pipped Japan with ease today, Paes and Bhupathi were far from their best but still the performance was good enough give a mauling to their opponents.

''I know we can and we played better than this. But still the effort was there and I am happy that we have won the game for India.

''In the second set we missed out a few volleys to and gave away the game to Japan but managed to make a comeback,'' Paes said after the win.

Rohan Bopanna will take on Go Soeda while Prakash Amritraj will face Japan's number one player Kei Nishikori in two dead rubbers tomorrow.

UNI

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