Leander Paes celebrating with partner Purav Raja to stay afloat against South Korea on Saturday. HT photo
Purav Raja was like a kid in a candy store. He took his time figuring his way around but when he did, he only seemed to come up for air and to lick his chops.
That is, after he had had his fair share of grinning. At other times he dug in, tamed his frayed nerves, and played competent tennis to partner Leander Paes in a 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory over the Korean pair of Lim Yong-Kyu and Nam Ji Sung.
For Raja, this tie has been the culmination of a dream held by every kid who picks up a racquet --- to play for the nation. From the very first day he turned up for practice, Raja has not been able to stop smiling.
It's obvious that he has been enjoying every moment of being part of the Davis Cup squad. In his response to queries, however, there has all along been a certain wariness.
He, obviously, did not want to be drawn into the controversy of the boycott of the tie by eleven of his peers.
The hesitancy was also on account of the fact that he was unsure of just what the correct response would be.
After all, Raja has answered more questions this week than have been addressed to him by the press in all of his 27 years!
After Saturday, however, he may well be less hesitant. Now, he may well feel comfortable of his place. He and Paes gave India their first point in this face-off to set off premature delirious celebrations by a bunch of supporters.
By the look of it, one would have been forgiven for deducing that India had won the tie itself and not registered just one solitary win against the two solid singles gains by the Koreans.
Blood and sweat
The glory, however, came after much struggle. The slow court did not suit the two Indians at all. Raja takes the ball early and relies on the opponent's pace to generate his own.
The freshly painted surface has obviously not been ground fine enough to aid that kind of play. The court holds on to the ball and robs it of pace before releasing it.
That's just what Paes also has no liking for. His chip and charge tennis too was blunted. For the five thousand plus crowd, a victory was gratifying enough but for the tennis lover, the game on display was not really that enthralling.
It was a slugfest, more of a wrestle than clinical surgery. Certainly not pretty.
On Sunday, VM Ranjeet and Vijayant Malik, who has apparently recovered from his cramps, will take the court first to redeem their honour.
They may have managed to shake off their first-day blues but they couldn't have grown the legs that are required to cow down the Koreans.
However, given that Davis Cup brings out the incredible in many a player, Indian tennis fans will pray on for a miracle. That stays a tough ask.