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Prakash downs Aqeel in straight sets to restore parity for India

Written by: Staff
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Mumbai, Apr 7 (UNI) Prakash Amritraj restored parity for India beating Aqeel Khan of Pakistan 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, as both the teams finished the first day at 1-1 in the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I tie at the Brabourne stadium here today.

Earlier in the day, Rohan Bopanna lost to Pakistan number one Aisam-ul-Haq Quereshi in straight sets 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4 to give the advantage to Pakistan.

Prakash showed excellent spirit and grit as he fought back from being 1-4 down in the first two sets to beat a resilient Aqeel in straight sets, to restore parity for his side.

Aqeel, taking confidence from the win of Quereshi in the morning, came out all guns blazing playing attractive and powerful shots with composure at the net as he raced to a 4-1 lead in the first set.

However, Prakash clawed his way back as he found his rhythm and his play at the net, out-volleying the Pakistan number two to level at 4-4 and then force a tie-breaker.

In the tie-breaker, Prakash got the all important mini-break on the 11th point and then served to wrap up the first set 7-6 (7-5).

Prakash, at this time, had to take an injury timeout due to a hamstring problem and resumed the second set after getting the required treatment.

The injury did seem to trouble him as Aqeel once again got off to a flying start in the second set to go up 4-1.

Once again Prakash, egged on by a vociferous home crowd, was able to overcome stiffness due to his injury and broke in the sixth game to make it 2-4.

Helped by a generous amount of double faults by his rival, the Indian broke the Pakistani again in the tenth game to make it 5-5.

Prakash, then, had two match points in the 12th game, but Aqeel managed to save both, the first after an unforced error and then with a thunderous ace.

The Indian number one player, however, took control in the tie-breaker and raced to a 5-0 lead with mini breaks on the second and third points. Prakash finally pocketed the second set in an hour and six minutes at 7-1, to go up two sets to nil.

The third set went on serve till the sixth game, when finally Prakash got the break required when Aqeel double-faulted to let the Indian break at love.

Prakash then kept his composure to finally win the third set 6-4 and wrapped up the match in two hours 52 minutes and help India square the rubber 1-1. Prakash was helped by the seven double faults his opponent made, in comparison to just two by him, while Aqeel hit more aces (nine) to Prakash's three.

Earlier in the morning, Rohan Bopanna had no answer to Aisam-ul-Haq Quereshi's ferocity on court as the Indian lost the first rubber. Pakistan team, banking on a winning start from their number one player Quereshi, got what they wanted as the Pakistani ace with his serve and volley game working to perfection beat Bopanna in straight sets 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4 and put their team ahead.

However, it was Bopanna who started off confidently, winning his first two service games on love. He kept pace with the 26-year-old Pakistani, using his big groundstrokes to counter Quereshi's rush to the net.

But Bopanna went down in the first set tie-break 5-7 after winning the first point of Quereshi's serve and taking a 3-0 lead.

This swung the momentum to the Pakistan's way and Quereshi broke Bopanna in the opening game of the second set. The Pakistani kept up the aggression, attacking the net and created great angles to keep Bopanna at bay.

Quereshi won the next two sets 6-4, 6-4, breaking Bopanna in the last game of the third set to take the rubber in two and a half hours.

Tomorrow, the Indian ace duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will take on the Pakistan pair, while the reverse singles on Sunday will see Prakash Amritraj take on Quereshi and Bopanna squaring off with Aqeel.

Paes, however, immediately broke back to level things up as the set went into a tie-breaker. In the tie-breaker, Paes took control with two early mini breaks, which put him ahead at 4-0. However, Aqeel again clawed back into the match with two mini breaks to make it 4-4. Paes, however, was much too experienced and reeled off the next three points to take the second set at 7-6 (4).

In the third set, the Mumbai heat started to get to Paes and he started cramping badly and he also had to take a medical time-out to get on court attention.

Aqeel using this to his advantage made Paes move around a lot as he pocked the third set with a break in the seventh game at 6-3.

The fourth set was all Aqeels as Paes battled with his cramps and the overbearing heat of Mumbai. Aqeel did not allow Paes to win even a single game in this set winning 6-0 to set up a fifth and deciding set.

Paes, who was down and suffering terribly with cramps not and being able to move also, however, somehow mustered up the strength and broke the Pakistani in the second game of the fifth set and then raced to a 3-0 lead. Aqeel could hold just once as Paes, As he has done for his country before in numerous occasions battling pain and fatigue, held on to win the fifth set at 6-1 and with it the match.

Earlier in the morning, Pakistan's number one Aisam Qureshi pounded in 21 aces to subdue India's Prakash Amritraj and bring the visitors on level terms at 2-2, after the first reverse singles.

Qureshi took on-court medical attention for cramps, but quelled a strong fight-back from his prodigal Indian rival, who committed as many as 12 double faults, to carve out a convincing 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory in two hours and 35 minutes. Qureshi, who had beaten number two Rohan Bopanna in three sets on the opening day, broke Amritraj's serve twice --- in the third and fourth games --- to clinch the first set in 34 minutes.

He then broke Amritraj's serve once in the third game to win the second set in 35 minutes and take a commanding 2-0 lead.

But the error-prone Indian, ranked 235 as compared to his rival's 416, came storming back to win the third set with a lone service break in the sixth game in 32 minutes.

Amritraj looked well in control when he broke Qureshi's strong serve in the opening game of the fourth set, but squandered that advantage with some loose play, which allowed his Pak rival to hit back with a break-back in the second game and then lost his serve again in the fourth set to trail 1-3.

At this stage Qureshi, behind 0-15 in the fifth, suffered a bout of cramps, which seemed to have restricted his movement considerably but he hung in there break the Indian's serve once more in the eighth game for a 5-3 lead.

The Pakistani then closed out the set and the match by pounding his last two serves in with renewed vigour to take the rubber.

UNI

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