BENGALURU: There was plenty of talk about the doubles rubber during the buildup of the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group I second round tie against Uzbekistan. But Rohan Bopanna and N Sriram Balaji put up a dominant show to bury Farrukh Dustov and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 at the KSLTA Stadium on Saturday. Thus, India took an unassailable 3-0 lead and qualified for the World Group Playoffs.
It was believed that Leander Paes’ absence would be felt as debutant Sriram, playing his first best-of-five match, would eventually crumble under pressure. But the big-serving Chennai lad was too good and took control of the match.
After two double faults in the first game, Bopanna found his rhythm and the pair hit a total of 16 aces. But Fayziev and Dustov put in six double faults and the lack of coordination between them was evident.
Fayziev, who suffered a heart-related issue on Day 1 was off colour. The Indian pair broke him in the first game and then again in the eighth to take control. While Fayziev made amends in the second set, Dustov was playing his first competitive match after six months. In the 10th game, Dustov was broken while serving to stay in the set. The third essay was all about Sriram and Bopanna, who produced great stuff to break in the second and fourth games.
Afterwards, Sriram said Bhupathi and Bopanna helped him with his movement and returns. “Mahesh asked me to constantly move up the court and to focus on my returns. We served well and took advantage of the conditions,” Sriram said.
Bopanna said the idea to create camaraderie between teammates had paid off. “We practised together for a week and that worked well. The idea was to have good coordination between every player. We did everything together and camaraderie was there,” Bopanna added.
The World Group Playoffs are scheduled for September and Bhupathi said if he had the same squad, India would be difficult to beat. “We can give anyone a run for their money. There is a chance we play at home. But as long as these guys serve that well, it would not be that difficult, although it will depend on the team we are getting in the draw,” Bhupathi signed off.