Paes-Bhupathi win first round, to meet Chilean pair next (Lead)

August 12th, 2008 - 10:19 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Abhinav Bindra
By V. Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 12 (IANS) Leander Paes, playing his fifth Olympic Games, and Mahesh Bhupathi, his fourth, began their campaign on a wining note in what could be their last attempt together to add an Olympic doubles medal to their already burgeoning collection. The duo scored an emphatic 6-3, 6-3 win over French pair of Simon Gilles and Gael Monfils in just under an hour. Monfils, a semi-finalist, at the Roland Garros this year, boasts of a record of winning three junior Grand Slam titles in a single year and was World No. 1 in junior rankings in 2004.

Paes and Bhupathi will now face Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa of Chile who upset Czech pair, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek.

The Indians have won three Grand Slams in partnership that goes back 13 years - though they rarely play together these days unless it is the Olympics, Asian Games or the Davis Cup.

Paes, who said he felt pumped by Abhinav Bindra’s gold medal, and Bhupathi needed one break in the fourth game of the first set to win it in 25 minutes. In the second set, the pair stayed with serves till 3-3. The two then ran through the last three games, breaking twice to wrap up the match.

Soon after the win, Paes commented, “It was not as easy a match as the score line might suggest. It was just that we won crucial points, or else they would have had a better chance.”

Paes was probably being cautious as the Indians never faced a break point on their serve in either set and in the first set won each point when they got their first serve in, which was two-third of the time.

Paes added, “We played well enough. Somebody asked me if we had re-discovered the magic we had in our doubles game. My reply is: was it ever gone?”

“We will need to step up our game to ensure that we perform well against tougher opponents.”

Paes and Bhupathi served and volleyed very well and there were times, one could see glimpses of the old partnership. “We have played together so much that it is always there. We know each other so well,” said Paes.

Paes, however, first pointed out that their second-round opponents could be the experienced Czech pair, Tomas and Stepanek. “They are both good doubles players,” he said.

But a little later, Berdych and Stepanek lost to Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa of Chile.

When told about Melo and Sa’s win, Paes said, “We cannot afford to be easy in any match at this level. Everyone is so good.”

Melo and Sa have been very successful, having won three titles together in last 15 months and two of them in 2008.

Even more interestingly, Melo and Sa played and won the longest ever match at Wimbledon winning 28-26 in the final set lasting six hours and 13 minutes.

Should the Indians win their matches against the Chileans, they could run into the Swiss pair Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals.

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