NEW DELHI, JULY 24 -- India took a 2-0 lead over Israel today at the end of the first day of singles play in their Davis Cup tennis quarterfinal series.
Playing under a blistering sun and surrounded by a heavy police guard, Ramesh Krishnan beat Israeli veteran Shlomo Glickstein in straight sets, 7-5, 6-1, 6-2, and veteran Vijay Amritraj, 34, held on to beat 21-year-old Amos Mansdorf, also in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
"This puts us in the driver's seat," Amritraj said.
Israel is favored in Saturday's doubles and Mansdorf is given the edge over Krishnan in the first of the reverse singles Sunday. Although Amritraj is a clear favorite against Glickstein, he and his brother Anand are scheduled to play doubles Saturday, which will mean three straight days in the 100-degree-plus heat on the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association courts for the veteran, while Glickstein will have had a day of rest.
The turning point in Glickstein's opening match today came in the 10th game of the first set with Krishnan serving at 5-5. Both players missed several opportunities before Krishnan finally held after 10 deuces. Krishnan broke Glickstein's serve to finish off the first set, and Glickstein offered little competition in the final two sets.
Amritraj kept Mansdorf off balance with booming first serves and heavy topspin on his second serve, which bounced high off the dry turf of the grass courts. Amritraj, who first played Davis Cup for India 18 years ago, took advantage of Mansdorf's second serve to gain critical break points in each set.
Aside from the heavy police guard around the club, the only reminders of the political sensitivity of today's matches came this morning when police broke up a small student demonstration as the group approached the hotel where the Israeli team is staying, and during the afternoon when police blocked about 250 protesters -- most of them chanting "Long Live Palestine" -- from reaching the stadium.
Before this competition, India's pro-Arab policy had meant the shunning of almost all sports contact with Israel for almost two decades. The decision to proceed with the Davis Cup series is widely viewed here as having been made on the grounds of sports over politics, but it nevertheless could not have been made without realizing it represented something of a political shift, as well.
Indian foreign office spokesmen insist, however, that the country's policies on Middle Eastern issues remain unchanged.
In other Davis Cup quarterfinal play today, Australia took a 2-0 lead over Mexico in Brisbane. Wally Masur defeated Mexico's Jorge Lozano, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, and Pat Cash beat Leonardo Lavalle, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0. The winner of the Israel-India series will play the Australia-Mexico winner.