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Lee-Hesh lose bronze play-off Sportsdesk | August 21, 2004 03:50 IST
Last Updated: August 21, 2004 04:00 IST

Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi battled for over four hours, well into the early hours of Saturday, but failed to get the better of the Croatian pair of Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic in the men's doubles bronze medal playoff at the Olympic Games.

The fifth seeded Indian pair went down fighting 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 14-16 in a marathon match that lasted a little over four hours, the third set extending to over two-and-a-half.

The Indians played their hearts out but found an unyielding pair in the Ancic and Ljubici, who served 16 aces to only five by the Indians.

The Indians were off to a dream start breaking the Croatians in the second game before Bhupathi served out the next game at love. But their service came under pressure in the fifth before they saved two break-points on Paes's serve.

However, they were broken in the seventh game on Bhupathi's serve after saving two break-points.

Games then went with serve till Ancic and Ljubicic clinched the set in the tie-breaker at 7-5, after overcoming a 2-5 deficit.

Beaten narrowly in the first set, Paes and Bhupathi broke in the seventh game of the second. They were in trouble in the ninth game but saved two break-points and won the game. Bhupathi then served out the tenth game as the Indians took the set when Ancic's return went long.

The decider was a battle royal. The Indian pair broke in the third game but the Ancic and Ljubicic returned the compliment in the next, breaking Bhupathi's serve.

Games then went with serve as both pairs gave little away while holding. 

The Indians were in deep trouble in the 16th game when they faced two break-points on Bhupathi's serve but they saved them and came through the crisis.

In the 17th game, it was the Croatians who faced a break but Ancic did well to hold his nerve and finish off the game with a neat placement.

Paes served out the 18th game after being taken to deuce once while Ljubicic served two aces in the next game as the Croatians survived.

The Indians wasted a 40-0 lead in 20th game and were taken to deuce, but held serve.

Deuce was called five times in the 21st game as Paes and Bhupathi had two break-points on Ancic's serve but they failed to capitalize on the advantage.

Paes then served out the 22nd game at love.

When the tie went into the 24th game, the teams had played as many games as the first two sets combined.

In the 26th game, the Indians faced match-point on Paes's serve at 30-40, but Bhupathi put off a return at the net to take the game to deuce.  They took the next two points and saved the game.

In the 29th game the Indians had three break-points off Ancic's serve but were just unable to capitalize on them. The score then read: 15-14, third set.

With local time well past 1 am, and the players one court for around four hours, it was a question of which pair would stay composed. The Croatians did. They broke Paes on their first point in the 30th game to emerge triumphant and claim the bronze medal.

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