| Mahesh Bhupathi (right) and Leander Paes in action in the Davis Cup doubles match against Japan in New Delhi Saturday. The Indians won 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. (AFP)
New Delhi, Feb. 8 (PTI): Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi recreated their old magic to give India a 2-1 lead against Japan in their Asia-Oceania group I first-round Davis Cup tie at the R.K. Khanna Stadium Saturday.
Paes and Bhupathi made mincemeat of Thomas Shimada and Jun Kato winning 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in less than an hour and a half.
The teams had shared Friday’s opening singles.
Bhupathi and Paes were donning India colours for only the second time after splitting last March. Bhupathi did not play the World Group play-off tie against Australia in September but won the Asian Games gold with Paes in Busan.
“It was nice and clinical,” said captain Ramesh Krishnan of the three-time Grand Slam winning pair’s performance.
Paes observed the old bond had never really been severed. “I’ve said before that we’ve never lost our touch. It’s all about camaraderie and to me it was one of the nicest performances, short and sweet,” said Paes.
“We just wanted to stay focussed, and didn’t want to let things go out of hand in a Davis Cup tie,” said Bhupathi.
The Indians had won the doubles rubber when the teams last met, too, the same pair beating Shimada and Takao Suzuki in a five-set thriller.
Suzuki’s replacement Kato, playing his first Cup match, turned out to be a sitting duck for the Indians. He dropped four of his six service games.
Throughout the match, Bhupathi and Paes were merciless on the Japanese much to the delight of the big festive crowd.
The Japanese faced a double break-point early in the match on Shimada’s serve but managed to hold on. That was the first sign of trouble for the visitors who soon succumbed to the sustained pressure.
Kato gathered himself in the beginning of II set but his game was way below the mark. Shimada did his best to hide his partner but his efforts were not enough to deny Indians.
“There is nothing to be ashamed about,” said Shimada. “We lost to one of the best teams in the world. The important thing is, we are still in the match. We are looking forward to the reverse singles where our strength lies.”
Aussies take 3-0 lead
In Sydney, Australia took an unbeatable 3-0 lead against Britain in the first round World Group tie after winning the doubles.
Lleyton Hewitt and Todd Woodbridge took two hours to beat Miles MaClagan and Arvind Parmar 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
Hewitt and Mark Philippoussis scored comfortable victories in the opening singles Friday.