India's Yuki Bhambri missed several chances in a tame defeat against world number 40 Jiri Vesely resulting in India losing the Davis Cup World Group Play-off tie against top seeds Czech Republic 1-3 at New Delhi's RK Khanna Tennis Complex on Sunday.
The Delhi boy's 3-6, 5-7, 2-6 loss in sweltering heat in the must-win fourth rubber means that India will remain in the Asia/Oceania Group 1 for next year's competition while the top seeds and three-time Davis Cup champions Czech Republic regained their place in the elite-16 nation World Group.
India needed Bhambri to remain alive in the tie but the 23-year-old on Sunday lacked the required fighting spirit despite the fact that the hot and humid conditions were bothering the left-handed Czech.
Bhambri lost both his singles rubbers over the weekend after playing an excellent tie against New Zealand in July when he won both the matches, including the deciding fifth one that helped India reach the Play-off stage. The doubles loss for the fancied duo of Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna also hurt India's chances in the tie.
Since the fate of the two teams was sealed, the two teams decided not to play the dead fifth rubber between Somdev Devvarman and Lukas Rosol.
India were trying to re-enter the World Group for the first time since March 2011, when they had lost to Serbia 1-4 in the first round.
After losing the first set, Bhambri had five chances to break Vesely in the second but he could convert none. Not being able to convert three chances in the eighth game proved suicidal as one break of serve could have turned the tide under challenging conditions.
Vesely dictated the terms in the two hour, 14 minute contest as he played the entire match on Bhambri's backhand. And he served strong to wriggle out of a few tough situations. The key to Vesely's success was that he played with lot of control. He committed only three unforced errors in the opening set and was rewarded with his first ever win in a live singles rubber in Davis Cup.
Vesely played a lot of points on Bhambri's backhand to begin with and persisted with the strategy. He also improved his serve as the match wore on and set Bhambri up for easy winners.