to put up a brave face.
Sitting with Leander Paes and non-playing captain SP Misra, the 27-year-old Raja simply had no words to describe his joy.
“It’s the biggest match of my life! It’s a joy to play with Leander who was definitely the best player on the court today. It’s difficult to explain how I feel after the win. I’ve never been in this situation before. I was anxious, nervous but then on court, everything faded away. I didn’t even have breakfast this morning. So, to start with, butterflies in my stomach are an understatement,” the soon-to-be-married player exclaimed.
South Korean Nam, on the other hand, was a bit shy. “It’s a big tournament. I was a little nervous before the match, but settled down once on court,” he explained via an interpreter.
The veteran of 49 ties, Paes, only had words of praise for his practice partner of two years.
“What you see today is the culmination of two years of practice. Whenever I’m in Mumbai, Purav and I practice. Purav’s wanted to ‘jumpstart’ the match for so many days now, that I think that’s how we began,” the 39-year-old said.
“It was a smooth match. The only time I probably felt nervous was 6-4, 7-6, 5-2; 40-0 up when Purav took a long look at his would-be wife! I was like ‘come on, we have to finish here’!”
Plan ‘B’ worked
The six-time Olympian also explained how his A-game wouldn’t work in such conditions.
“I had to be solid on such a slow surface. My usual chip game wouldn’t work because I would run past the ball. So, the B-game was better,” Paes said.
The one thing Paes emphasised was the importance of nurturing the next set of players.
“When we play at home, the association always makes it a point to bring a big team of boys who gain experience. The rookies in this team will immensely benefit from this tie.”
Misra added that Vijayant Malik, who was forced to concede the second singles on Friday due to cramps, was ready to play.
“We still have a big job at hand. The Koreans will be tough and we need to keep ourselves grounded,” the former Davis Cupper added.