| Sania Mirza during her quarter final match against Thailand’s Suchanun Viratpresert in Doha on Monday. (AFP)
Doha: In the end, Leander Paes said, “it was never easy.” In reality, though, it was a cakewalk.
The top-seeded Indian doubles pair of Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi moved into the semi-finals of the Asian Games with consummate ease, defeating Pakistan’s Aisam-ul Haq Qureshi and Aqeel Khan 6-2, 6-4. The Indian duo is now assured of at least a bronze, even if they lose in the penultimate round.
The story was no different when Sania Mirza met Suchanun Viratpresert in the women’s singles quarter final. Her opponent was too overawed by the Indian’s service and court craft and lost 3-6, 2-6. Having assured India of yet another medal in the racket sport, Sania now meets top seed Li Na of China on Tuesday.
In the doubles, so one-sided was the 68-minute affair that it was a disappointment for those who expected it to be a fiery Indo-Pak battle on court. The stands in Court No. 8 at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex were filled up by the Indian fans. The Pakistan pair hardly had anyone to back them. Anyway, it wouldn’t have helped them much.
The on-court relations between Paes and Bhupathi looked more at ease than it was a couple of days back. They spoke and congratulated each other after winning every point. There was no hi-five in the entire match because it was not needed.
The Indian pair raced to a 3-0 lead within no time and then settled down to take the first set at 6-2. Qureshi did his best to offer some resistance, but he didn’t receive much support from Aqeel, who was erratic and a poor customer at the net. No wonder Paes hinted at the end of the match that an off-form Aqeel helped India wrap up the match quickly.
Bhupathi, who looked in some kind of physical discomfort in the earlier matches, was more at ease on Monday. He hit some fine winners in the first set. While Paes took care of anything that came to the net, Bhupathi had some stunning passing shots to his credit.
In the second set, Bhupathi was not as good as in the first. The Pakistani pair also tired hard to bring some respectability to the scoreline. They fought well till 4-4, but once Aqeel was broken in the ninth game, thanks to some stunning punch volleys by Paes, Bhupathi had little trouble in serving it out for a 6-4 win.
“We are improving in every match,” said a smiling Paes after the match before he was mobbed by autograph hunters. Then he shook hands with Nandan Bal and Geet Sethi before going to the dressing room quickly. In the semi-finals, Paes and Bhupathi meet Cecil Mamiit and Frederik Taino of the Philippines.
Sania said she was under no pressure after setting up a meeting with the top seed. “The entire pressure should be on Li Na.”
In the other doubles quarter-final, Rohan Bopanna and Mustafa Ghouse lost to Sun Woong Jun and SY Kim 7-6, 6-1.