Sania, Bhupathi-Paes stay on course for gold

India`s tennis sensation Sania Mirza stormed into the women`s singles semi-final while the crack doubles duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi also kept themselves on track for a gold medal in the Asian games tennis events here today.

Doha, Dec 11: India`s tennis sensation Sania Mirza
stormed into the women`s singles semi-final while the crack
doubles duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi also kept
themselves on track for a gold medal in the Asian games tennis
events here today.

The fourth seeded Sania gave ample display of her class
and her improving form by making short work of Thailand`s
Suchanun Viratrasert with a clinical 6-3 6-2 victory at the
Khalifa international stadium.

The 19-year-old Sania broke her Thai opponent in the
first, seventh and ninth games to wrap up the first set in 32
minutes and continued with the same intensity in the second
set to clinch the match in just a little more than an hour.

The Hyderabadi girl will now take on top seed and the
upcoming Chinese star Li Na in the semi-finals tomorrow.

"I felt good. I was hitting the ball well and I was
confident. My fitness has been my weakness in the past. I have
been working on it for the past five months. The work has paid
off here," Sania said after the match.

The top-seeded Paes and Bhupathi, who have shared a
troubled off-court relationship for long, put up a clinical
display to oust Pakistan`s Aisam Qureshi and Aqeel Khan 6-2,
6-4 scoreline in the men`s doubles quarterfinal.

Playing under heavy overcast conditions, the Indians
showed that their on-field chemistry was still not much
affected by the recent spat as they combined well to send the
Pakistanis packing in an hour and eight minutes.

"As long as we play at our level, we can win the gold. We
know how tough it is, but our game plan was to play the ball
to Aqeel and Paes and I did just that," Bhupathi said.

Bhupathi appeared upset when persistently asked about his
relationship with Paes.

"One loss (in the team event) does not break our years of
partnership. We always play well together, and the next match
will be tough, and we will have to practice," he said.

Paes said it was a tough match but he and Bhupathi got a
good start and maintained the tempo.

"It was tough because one of them was talented and one
was not. We started off very well and sustained that tempo
right through to win the match," he said.

However, the Indians had some disappointment in store
when the fourth seeded duo of Rohan Bopanna and Mustafa Ghouse
lost to the seventh Korean pair of Jung Woong Sun and Kim Sun
young 6-7 (2-7), 1-6 in another quarterfinal encounter.

The Indians paid the price for making a number of service
mistakes which allowed their opponents to clinch the contest
in one hour and 10 minutes.

"It was disappointing. It was a close match in the first
set and it led to a tie-break. We didn`t start well in the
second set and we let it go easily," Bopanna said.

"We made a lot of service mistakes in the second set and
that did not help us at all", Ghouse said.

Bureau Report

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