| Mahesh Bhupathi and Mario Ancic
Mumbai: Dmitry Tursunovís exhibition of sledgehand forehand winners served as starters for the big crowd at CCI. The main course on Super Saturday was always going to be the Leander Paes versus Mahesh Bhupathi doubles showdown.
And what a treat they got! Taking in their stride a somewhat one-sided opening set which went Bhupathi and Ancicís way, the 3000-odd egged Paes and Aisam Qureshi on to come up with a stirring show. They levelled scores and forced a match tie-break, which, though didnít produce too many thrills.
In the end, the favourites went directly through to the final (their semi-final opponents withdrew two days ago), but tennis was the winner in this first ever clash of the Indian titans on home soil.
For the record, the scoreline in Bhupathi and Ancicís favour read 6-1, 5-7, 10-3.
Bhupathi and Paesí partners played their parts well in this gripping contest. Ancic, dumped out of singles by Stefan Koubek, was eager to extend his stay in India and move a step closer to back-to-back titles with Bhupathi.
The tall Croat served like only he can, not dropping serve once.
Qureshi, the odd man out in terms of experience and success, was not necessarily the weakest player on court. Overcoming early nerves, the handsome Pakistani played some delightful tennis to contribute handsomely to Team Paesí resurrection.
Paes, too had a slow start and was broken twice in set 1. But taking heart from his partnerís spirit, the senior pro got into the act with the gusto and energy which have been a hallmark of his storied career.
ĎUpar mar, upar,í Paes screamed as his younger partner chased down an Ancic lob. The crowd, divided in its loyalty, just loved it.
They would have loved the action to go on for another hour, but Bhupathi and Ancic ó not wanting to be denied a shot at another crown ó turned on the heat to walk away with the match tie-break.