India live to fight another day

SP

A win in the doubles rubber may have proven to be the pivot on which India had turned Davis Cup ties around in the past, but Saturday's triumph is unlikely to belong to that category.

Leander Paes and Purav Raja had to labour a touch before they could crack Yong-Kyu Lim and Ji Sung Nam in the first two sets, but were later rewarded diligence with the third which proved to be a bit of a stroll. Despite the 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-2 win, India's first in the tie, South Korea remain favourites to extend their 2-1 lead into the territory of the unassailable, come the reverse singles on Sunday.

Of the three players that made their Davis Cup debuts in the tie for India, Raja probably had the best reasons to contemplate the possibilities of a victory. The alarmingly retreating hairline and the languid gait may not have suggested it, but the 27-year old was the best ranked (161 in doubles) in his discipline of choice, among the three new-comers. And of course, he had the other, more crucial advantage of having Paes, the World No. 7, around to fight half his battles.

Raja's first touch was to put the ball into the net from three feet away, but that had more to do with the stinging return Paes' serve begot than any incompetence on his part. The first two service games — Paes went first and Lim served right after — were marathon affairs, but the Indians managed to come out on top on both occasions. With the break coming so early in the game, Raja could bed in unhurriedly. He responded with the first straight-forward hold of the rubber to put India 3-0 up in the set.

All the action seemed to be reserved for when Raja served. On his second turn, Lim and Nam came up with return winners each and when Paes dunked a volley into the net, it was all square at 4-4. By then, the pace and style of the game were more or less defined. Lim and Nam seemed more comfortable at the back of the court, preferring to pass the Indians when they came up to the net or pin them on the move. Paes and Raja rushed forward in tandem when things got tight, forcing the Koreans to vacate their stations behind the base line.

... contd.

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