Czechs take 2-1 lead as Paes-Bopanna falter

New Delhi, Sep 19 (IANS) The charisma of Leander Paes was missing on Saturday as the Indian tennis legend with Rohan Bopanna lost the lone doubles rubber in straight sets to give visiting Czech Republic a 2-1 lead in the Davis Cup World Group Playoff here.

The much hyped pair went down to veterans Radek Stepanek and Adam Pavlasek 5-7, 2-6, 2-6 in two hours and nine minutes on the rebound ace hard court.

Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri face a daunting Sunday when they will try to overcome the deficit by winning the two reverse singles matches.

The two big names of Paes and Bopanna helped bring in a capacity crowd at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) complex, but the pair disappointed, losing the doubles rubber, traditionally considered India’s forte.

As many as seven double faults, an incredible 48 unforced errors and lack of winners at crucial moments proved fatal for the Indian pair. Paes also failed to ignite his game at the net.

Amid loud cheers for the home team, Bopanna started the match by holding his service in the first game. But at 2-2, Paes and Bopanna suffered a shock when they were broken as early as the fifth game.

A few minutes later the Indian pair found their legs to break back and level the contest at 5-5. At this point it looked as if the momentum was with India and they could seal the set.

But Paes and Bopanna were broken again in the 11th game as the Czech pair coordinated better. Serving to seal the set, Stepanek and Pavlasek hardly broke a set and took a 1-0 advantage in the match.

India saved two set points but that wasn’t enough as the visitors sealed the deal on their third chance, with the set lasting 52 minutes.

Possibly the most humid day of the week, Saturday wasn’t a great one for India.

The Indian duo looked like a disoriented pair. Bopanna’s volleys were hardly converted into winners while Paes’ malleable wrists somehow also lacked their usual touch on the day.

They Indian combine were broken as many as three times in the second set after which it was very difficult for them to come back to win the set, which was lost in 39 minutes.

India were broken in the third, fifth and seventh games of the eight-game set and only managed to break Stepanek and Pavlasek once in the sixth game.

Hopes were dim in the third set but the crowd still hoped that the 42-year-old veteran would turn the tables on the World No.1 Czechs. They kept chanting ‘Leander’ and ‘Rohan’ but their voices failed to motivate the Indian combination.

The third set was no different as the Czechs broke Paes and Bopanna in the fifth and seventh games to take the set in 38 minutes and give their team a 2-1 lead going into the last day of the tie.

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