India & New Zealand Level At 1-1 After First Day
India has evened up the score with a win in the second singles match at the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group I semi final tie at the Renouf Tennis Centre in Wellington.
Leander Paes beat Alistair Hunt in less than two hours in straight sets scoring a 6-3 6-4 6-4 win.
Paes showed his high-ranking skill but little fashion sense, wearing striped leggings under his shorts and never removing his jacket, in an effort to ward off the cold winds buffeting the centre court.
Ranked 442 as Indian number one, Paes played smoothly to beat Hunt, whose semi-retired ATP ranking has dropped to 1371. Hunt fought back in the second, serving up three aces but his whole game was plagued with double faults and Paes won after 37 minutes.
"It is a fair result. I would have been happier if we were 2-0 ahead," said Indian captain, Ramesh Krishnan.
Continuing his run of dominance and with the sun finally shining through the clouds, Paes was unperturbed with the midway score in the third set of Hunt leading 4-3 and took only 42 minutes to win. Out of the 29 games, Hunt broke Paes' serve only once, delivering eight double faults to a total of twelve aces from Paes.
"I struggled with my rhythm the whole time, with the wind I never felt that comfortable," said Hunt.
Hunt praised his opponent, who he once toured with as a junior but said the match was probably closer than the score suggested. "He's a little bit quicker around the court than I am. I thought he played really well, but really there was only a couple of points in it."
Earlier in the day, New Zealand Mark Nielsen won against Harsh Mankad the second Indian seed, with a 6-4 6-0 6-1 score in extremely windy conditions. Nielsen was too consistent for Mankad and out-powered his more inexperienced opponent in most facets of the game.
Looking towards the doubles, Krishnan felt that his team goes into the match as favourites but noted ties are not won on just the doubles match. "In all of the ties doubles is certainly our strong point, but there are five matches four of which are singles so we go into the doubles in a positive frame of mind," said Krishnan.
The doubles match will be played at 1pm New Zealand time on Saturday with Mahesh Bhupathi and Paes, the world doubles number five and eight respectively, taking on the Kiwi scratch combination of Dan Willman and James Shortall. However it is expected that the more experienced pairing of Nielsen and Hunt could be called in at the last moment to play the doubles for New Zealand.
Day 1 results
Mark Nielsen (NZL) bt Harsh Mankad (IND) 6-4 6-0 6-1
Leander Paes (IND) bt Alistair Hunt (NZL) 6-3 6-4 6-4