Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna proved too lethal a combination for Denis Istomin and Farrukh Dustov as they aced out the Uzbek pair 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 in the doubles to give India a crucial 2-1 lead in the Group 1 Asia/Oceania Davis Cup tournament in Delhi on Saturday.
India captain Leander Paes made a tactical move by playing Rohan Bopanna in place of Prakash Amritraj and it paid off well, as Bopanna proved the perfect foil for Bhupathi in the crucial match.
It was the second time Bhupathi and Bopanna teamed in Davis Cup doubles, the earlier instance being way back in 2002 against Holland.
The teams were level 1-1 after the opening singles on day 1 of the match.
The Indian pair dominated the proceedings throughout their 129-minute stay on the grass court. If Bopanna served brilliantly, Bhupathi was the executioner at the net. They combined well, while firing 11 aces and committing four doubles faults, to demolish Uzbekistan's challenge.
The Indians got the break in the first game when they broke Istomin. It was Istomin again who was broken for the second time in the ninth game, as the hosts claimed the set 6-3 in 26 minutes.
Istomin, the higher ranked Uzbek player, turned out to be the weak link and Bhupathi and Bopanna targeted him.
Istomin was broken in the eighth game of the second set as India went 2-0. The set lasted 27 minutes.
The third set followed the same pattern, the only difference being that it was Dustov who was broken, in the fifth game, as the Indians clinched the set 6-4 and wrapped up the match.
Bopanna was a revelation as he served well; his placing at the net left the opponents bewildered. With Bhupathi volleying and smashing with precision the Uzbeks were reduced to nothing.
Istomin tried hard but his service left much to be desired, and Dustov was all at sea when it came to returning. The visitors' inexperience on grass was obvious.
Of the 11 aces the Indians fired, eight came from Bopanna's racquet while the Uzbeks came up with six aces -- three each from both players.
''It was a grand show; we are now in a driver's seat,'' said Paes, after the match.
''Mahesh and Rohan played great tennis.
''Rohan and Mahesh performed superbly; I did not want to take chance, that is why I opted for Rohan and he came out triumphant,'' he said, adding, ''It was the best doubles team out there and they have put us in a commanding position.''
Bhupathi was of the view that early break helped.
''It is nice to start with an advantage. We expected to win this match; the number of sets hardly matter.''
Bopanna was satisfied with the way he played.
''I am okay with my game. I tried to get lot of first serves, and with Mahesh at the net it helped. It was a good match. I am confident of tomorrow's [singles] tie also.
"It is nice to go into the third day with two wins under our belt. I hope to make it a hat- trick.''
Istomin was all praise for the Indians.
''They played well,'' he said, and admitted that he and Dustov did not click well.
''We have not been playing together, so we could not combine well. Also, we are not used to grass,'' he said, but exuded confidence of doing better tomorrow.
''If I make it 2-2 tomorrow, I think we have a good chance of winning this tie,'' he added.