The only hiccup was when Leander Paes dropped his serve once, but the veteran guided his partner Sanam Singh and led India to a comfortable 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 win over Indonesian pair David Agung Susanto and Elbert Sie as the hosts took an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group I relegation play-off here on Saturday.
While the Indian victory was a foregone conclusion and was achieved in just 81 minutes, the only point of interest was whether the unheralded Indonesian combo would be able to stretch their opponents, and they did not even come close to it. After India won the two singles matches on Friday, the pressure was squarely on the Indonesians, who eventually gave in, more to their own inexperience than any ingenuity on part of the Indian pair.
Paes, 39, playing his 50th Davis Cup tie and in his 23rd year at this level, was undoubtedly the star of the match with his brilliant netplay marked by quick hands while 25-year-old Sanam, a comparative newcomer, excelled from the back court with some searing winners, though at times, his inexperience was exposed.
As for the Indonesians, Susanto proved to be the weak link. He held serve just once in the entire match while Sie was never short on enthusiasm, and all but played a lone hand for his team. Susanto was broken twice in the first set as the Indians jumped to a 1-0 lead but not before saving two break points on Sanam’s serve in the eighth game.
In the second, the Indians stepped up the pace and broke the Indonesians thrice for a 2-0 advantage and went on to lead 4-1 in the third before stumbling as the visitors put up a spirited fight. After Susanto held serve for the first time in the match to make it 4-2, Paes dropped serve in the seventh and then Sie held to make it 4-4. It was the only period when the Indonesians looked to be on equal footing.
However, the brief spark was quickly extinguished as Sanam held serve for 5-4 and on cue, Susanto was broken in the 10th as the Indians closed the tie to set off celebrations in the stands. After the match, Paes said: “It is team unity that helped us through here. Somdev (Devvarman) gave us a good start and Yuki (Bhambri) put us 2-0 ahead yesterday and Sanam and I finished the tie.”
Sanam to play singles tie
As if to reward Sanam for Saturday’s performance, team captain Shiv Prakash Misra announced that the youngster would play the first reverse singles today replacing Devvarman while Bhambri will play the second singles. Today’s matches are inconsequential in the context of the tie. Paes also heaped praise on 25-year-old Sanam who he opined could blossom into a top doubles player. “I have played with so many partners that it is about adapting. This was his (Sanam’s) first match and it was my 50th. But I thought Sanam played a great match,” he said.