| Leander Paes in action against Takao Suzuki during the India-Japan Davis Cup tie in New Delhi on Friday. Paes won 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4. (AFP)
New Delhi: India had to again rely on ‘Mr Dependable’ to deny their opponents a stranglehold on Day I of the Davis Cup tie. A sparkling performance by Leander Paes ensured a 1-1 result against Japan at the R.K. Khanna Stadium here.
After Rohan Bopanna went down 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (4-7), 3-6 to Goichi Motomura in the first rubber of the Asia-Oceania group I first round tie, Paes notched up a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 victory over Takao Suzuki.
Saturday’s doubles rubber will be crucial with the hosts depending on the star pair of Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi to see them through.
Japanese captain Jun Kamiwazumi’s question at the post-match press conference summed up the visitors’ feelings on Day One proceedings.
“How does Paes play so well in Davis Cup, he is ranked outside 1000' Is it because he eats lot of curry-rice'”
Paes’ explanation was on expected lines — passion for the game, he explained, was the motivating factor.
“It’s unfortunate I don’t get to play as many singles matches as I would like. But I still enjoy playing singles although my ranking makes it difficult for me to balance between singles, doubles and playing for the country,” Paes observed.
Ironically, the ageing warrior’s dismantling of Suzuki came soon after hopes of Bopanna coming of age failed to materialise.
The 22-year old, playing his first ‘live’ Cup rubber, discovered the gap between the Futures-Challengers level and the higher arena was quite a big one.
Bopanna also did his cause no good by putting too much effort into his first serves. He had 22 aces but also committed 16 double-faults.
Paes had no problems. He maintained an impressive first-serve percentage and volleyed consistently well. The experienced Indian was also aware of Suzuki’s shoulder trouble and exploited it by wearing the Japanese down.
“I had very much expected a five-set match, and was mentally prepared for all situations,” said Paes, who had beaten Suzuki in an exciting five-setter when the two teams met last in Tokyo two years ago.