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India, Pakistan level after day 1

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April 07, 2006 19:37 IST

Prakash Amritraj's spirit and Aisam Qureshi's ferocity shone on the first day of the Davis Cip tie between India and Pakistan, as the teams won a rubber each at the Brabourne stadium, in Mumbai, on Friday.

Pakistan's number one player Qureshi beat Rohan Bopanna 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4 to give his team a winning start before Amritraj leveled the score with a 7-6(5), 7-6(1), 6-4 win over Aqeel Khan.

Earlier report: Prakash Amritraj draws India level

For India's captain, Leander Paes, the difference between his players was more in the mind.

"Prakash's game was a little tentative; he wasn't in command. He was down, then he fought back; he was down again in the second set and he came back. For me, Prakash's win was all about the heart and the head," said Paes.

"Game-wise Rohan and Prakash are on par, but Rohan has to believe in himself and think that he deserves to win the big games. He has all the tools to go a level up; he just has to get that confidence."

Khan commanded from the baseline at the start of the match, but choked on important points. He led in the first two sets -- 5-2 in the first and 5-3 in the second -- but failed to serve them out. Amritraj broke Khan on the first point of the tie-break and raced to a 4-0 lead before closing it out 7-5.

He then fought back from two breaks down in the second set and went on to take the tie-breaker 7-1, as Khan looked distracted due to a couple of foot faults and close line calls.

Though there wasn't a big crowd at the Brabourne on the first day, there were some distractions during the points that disappointed the Pakistan camp.

"I was trying to go for too much too soon," explained Khan of his lapse in concentration while trying to serve out the first two sets.

Once into the third set, Khan's first serve percentage dropped and he wasn't able to hold on to his own during the rallies.

"Aqeel's serve was a problem in the third set," admitted Pakistan's non-playing captain Rashid Malik. "He looked shaky in the third set, but that happens when you lose two close sets."

He served two successive double-faults in the seventh game to give Amritraj the break. The Indian kept his cool and overcame cramps in the thumb to win the third set 6-4.

The first match of the day saw booming serves from both the players, with Bopanna serving 18 aces and Qureshi firing 12.

But Bopanna couldn't match Qureshi's ferocity on court, as he went down to the Pakistani in two hours and six minutes.

Qureshi pumped his fists, screamed with joy and kept the adrenaline pumped throughout the contest. His body language was in complete contrast with a rather laid back Bopanna, who just couldn't get himself to lift his game after Qureshi settled nicely into the contest.

Though the two sides were even in the first set, the momentum swung Pakistan's way after Qureshi took the first set tie-break 7-5, after being 0-3 down. His serve and volley game worked to perfection as he scripted yet another commanding victory in the Davis Cup.

Paes was satisfied with Bopanna's performance, but said he wasn't been able to raise his game after a particular level.

"We saw that against (Martin) Verkerk, against (Thomas) Johansson and now again against Aisam. He has been able to stretch the sets to tie-breakers but hasn't gone on to win them.

"Today I think we had a great chance to be 2-0 up. When Rohan crossed sides 4-2 up during the tie-breaker he should've closed the set out. The pressure was more on Aisam because he is their number one player and was thinking that he had to win this one. But Aisam's an accomplished player and he won the game rather than Rohan losing it."

In Saturday's doubles match, the ace Indian pair of captain Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will take on Asim Shafik and Jalil Khan.

Deepti Patwardhan