Tennis icon Leander Paes became the most successful doubles player in the history of Davis Cup with a record 43rd Doubles win followed by immense character shown by the young contenders in Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran who held their nerve when it mattered the most to ensure a historic comeback 3-2 win over China on Saturday at their home turf in Tianjin.
Prior to this, India did not get the start they were looking for. On Day 1, Team India saw themselves trailing against the hosts 0-2 after Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal opened our campaign with surprising back to back defeats in Rubber 1 & 2. This put immense pressure on the upcoming fixtures as the next Doubles match turned into a must win for India to stay alive in the Davis Cup Tie. This also meant that the Indian youngsters had to give their absolute all for their country to win not one, but both the reverse Singles match to book a spot in the World Group Playoffs.
In Rubber 1, Ramkumar Ramanathan suffered a defeat at the hands of Yibing WU 7-6, 6-4. And in Rubber 2, the onus to bring the Indian side back into the tie was on World Ranked 213, Sumit Nagal, but he too did not deliver and lost to Ze Zhang 6-4, 6-1.
India’s non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi described the opening day as “shocking”.
For India to win the Asia/Oceania Tie, every fixture on day 2 was a must win. Our experienced campaigners in Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna were up next against the Chinese pair Mao-Xin Gong and Di Wu. A slump in the first set was a setback for Team India but Paes and Bopanna fought back to win the match 5-7, 7-6, 7-6. This match was a massive confidence booster for the whole Indian squad and was a milestone for Leander Pease as he won his 43rd Davis Cup match to finally surpass Italian Nicola Pietrangeli.
Following a lackluster performance in the opening match, Ramkumar Ramanathan bounced back with an impressive win by defeating Di Wu 7-6(4) 6-3. The win levelled the tie 2-2.
For the last encounter, Captain Mahesh Bhupathi took matters into his own hands to make the surprising decision of playing left-handed Prajnesh Gunneswaran instead of Sumit Nagal in the tie-deciding fifth rubber against the Chinese teen sensation Yibing Wu. This was a decision that worked in favour of Team India as the youngster from Chennai did not disappoint as he convincingly won the final match 6-4, 6-2 to ensure a historic comeback for Team India and take us into the World Group Playoffs.