| Rohan Bopanna celebrates his decisive victory over Jun Kato in New Delhi on Sunday. Bopanna won 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. (AFP)
New Delhi: Rohan Bopanna registered his first Davis Cup win as India ensured a facile 4-1 victory against Japan in the Asia Oceania Group I first round match Sunday.
Leaving behind the defeat in the opening singles, Bopanna came up with a clinical show against Jun Kato in the first reverse singles to win 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4 which gave India a 3-1 lead.
Veteran Leander Paes then survived an early scare to beat Gouchi Motomura 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the dead rubber.
This was Paes’ 63rd Davis Cup victory and he is now second to Ramanathan Krishnan, who has won 69 matches.
Bopanna showed great composure in only his third Davis Cup match. He was, however, benefited by the withdrawal of No. 1 Japanese player Takao Suzuki, who was still recovering from a sore shoulder.
“He is not just the next generation player, but next to next generation. What is more important is that he and other youngsters have Leander and Mahesh still at their peak,” India’s non-playing captain Ramesh Krishnan said after the victory.
Bopanna himself credited his success to the seniors.
“We have two greats in the team, Leander and Mahesh. They kept telling me to keep my chin up and practise hard,” said the 22-year old Bopanna.
Kato, who made his Davis Cup debut in the doubles match Saturday, was left to face the music in front of a partisan Sunday crowd.
Bopanna’s fine serves coupled with strong baseline game was too hot for Kato to handle.
Bopanna, after winning the first set, broke Kato in the ninth game of the second and first game of the third set to wrap things up in one hour and 54 minutes.
However, in the first set tie-breaker, Bopanna was lucky when a point was awarded in his favour at 5-5 when he hit the ball wide.
The Indian then unleashed a powerful serve to take the first set.
Paes, was not in his belligerent self coming out to play the dead-rubber against Motomura.
Taking advantage of that, the Japanese broke Paes in the second and fourth games to pocket the first set.
But Paes brought all his experience into play in the next two sets, thus going past Jaideep Mukherjee’s record of 62 Davis Cup wins.
“It’s a special feeling. I had set a target of winning all the three matches, but it was tough to play a static and dead rubber,” Paes said.
India will now take on New Zealand who at home in the second round from April 4 to 6. New Zealand beat Pakistan 5-0 at Hamilton.
“Let us allow the dust to settle down,” Krishnan said. “We have two months between now and the New Zealand tie, and Rohan (Bopanna) has the right people to advise him. He has done well but there are two-three areas for him to focus.”