It was a memorable day for India’s sensational Davis Cupper, Leander Paes. Playing his 50th Davis Cup tie, Leander put on a relaxed and cheeky display with Sanam Singh — the 94th doubles partner of his illustrious career, to give India a 3-0 lead in the Asia Oceania Davis Cup relegation playoff against Indonesia on Saturday.
A huge weekend crowd gave Leander and Sanam a standing ovation as they downed the Indonesian pair of Elbert Sie and David Agung Susanto 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in less than two hours under the floodlights of the KSLTA Stadium, reducing the reverse singles on Sunday to a mere formality.
Paes thus took his Davis Cup win-loss record to 88-32. Paes has a singles record of 48-22 and a doubles record of 40-10 since he began his Davis Cup career in 1990, partnering present national coach Zeeshan Ali in the doubles.
The constant cheering between points, the incessant drum beats, the noise from the stands and of course the presence of Leander Paes across the net overawed the Indonesian pair, who went down meekly. Leander all but strolled around the court, making timely interceptions at the net, producing his cross-court drops or patting away his forehand down the centre between the two rivals for winners.
His partner Sanam had his tails up in Paes’ company and delighted the crowd as much as he stunned the opponents with a flurry of superb down-the-line forehand returns, cracking backhand and forehand cross-court winners time and time again.
Built more in the mould of a gymnast, a rhythmic gymnast, the diminutive Sanam was impressive right through, not just in his blue shirt but also with his all-round game. He also fired in two aces to top his display.
Susanto was broken in the first game of the first set and then in the final game of the third. He had difficulty in holding his serve and managed to hold it only once in his six service games in the match.
Elbert was far better, and dropped his serve only once. The pair was also a bit erratic with their returns, and hardly got right over the bouncing ball to keep it in play. They did play a couple of good down-the-line shots but buckled under pressure and caved in meekly. The Indians eked out a 5-1 lead in the first set before Elbert held serve before Sanam won his game to take the first set 6-2.
The second was different in the sense that Elbert, too, dropped serve and Susanto was broken as Indians won it 6-1.
The Indonesians offered more defiance in the third set and broke Leander for the first time in the match. But they proved far too good and eventually won it 6-4 to clinch an unassailable 3-0 lead.