Busan: Leander Paes didn’t need to play in the first round team event tie Wednesday. Against East Timor, just about anyone could have taken the court at Geumjeong Tennis Stadium and won.
It was a huge risk what with his ankle not fully healed. A slip here or a twist there would have aggravated the injury and put a question mark over his participation in the far more important quarter final encounter against Uzbekistan Friday.
But when it comes to playing for the country, Paes doesn’t stay off court unless he has a broken hand or leg. Captain Anand Amritraj was keen that his trump card make an appearance, and Paes was happy to oblige.
“The ankle is still swollen and a bit sore as well,” Paes informed later. “But the captain wanted me to play so that I could get some match practice in singles before the important ties, so I played.”
Paes was kept on court no more than 35 minutes and didn’t concede a single game to Matias de Sousa. Neither did Rohan Bopanna, to Antonio Mendes. In fact, the only game East Timor won in six sets was in the doubles rubber in which Bopanna and Sunil Kumar beat De Sousa and Mendes 6-0, 6-1.
“As the scoreline tells you, I didn’t have much work to do… I’ll be out there against the Uzbeks too on Friday," assured Paes.
Playing Paes may have been fraught with danger, but it was good to see ‘debutant’ Anand taking a stand and forcing it through. Will he be as authoritative when it comes to the delicate issue of making Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi practise together'
Bhupathi didn’t play Wednesday but may have to team up with Paes Friday if India and Uzbekistan share the opening singles.
The women’s team came through an equally farcical first-round duel, Mongolia winning one game in three rubbers. Sania Mirza and Rushmi Chakravarthi played the singles, while Nirupama Vaidyanathan and Rushmi lined up in doubles.