India are relegated to Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group I after a crushing 1-4 loss in the World Group play-off to Japan, who are now through to the elite club for the first time since 1985.
Trailing 1-2 in the tie, India more or less resigned to their fate after their top player Somdev Devvarman pulled out with a shoulder strain and it was all over for them when debutant Vishnu Vardhan lost the first reverse singles to Kei Nishikori here Sunday.
Vardhan, whose tennis largely been restricted to the ITF circuit, did well to stretch World No. 55 Nishikori in the first set, but his best was not enough to stop the Japanese from winning in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.
In the dead fifth rubber, Rohan Bopanna was 5-4 up against 116th-ranked Go Soeda when he decided to retire because of a toe problem.
India needed to win both the last day's singles after Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi gave their side a window of opportunity by winning a hard-fought four-setter doubles after Somdev and Bopanna lost their singles on the opening day.
"I thought I played some of the best tennis of my life today. It was awesome to be a part of this Davis Cup team. I thought I really pushed Nishikori to play better out there," Vardhan, ranked 456th, said.
The Japan will join the World Group in 2012.