Yuki Bhambri put India's Davis Cup campaign back on track with an impressive win after Somdev Devvarman's shock defeat to Michael Venus in the opening rubber, beating New Zealand's Jose Statham 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 to level the Asia Oceania Group I tie 1-1 in Christchurch on Friday.
Venus, the world number 548 in the singles, beat 148th-ranked Devvarman 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 1-6 after three hours and 43 minutes.
Devvarman, who came into the tie after winning a Challenger title in USA, was firmly in control before losing his way. Egged on by the home crowd, Venus recovered amazingly after losing the first two sets and outsmarted 148th ranked Devvarman to surprise the visitors.
"I wasn't doing anything wrong in the first couple of sets but he was playing very well and chasing everything down," Venus said.
"I was able to up my game a bit more and really show some fight in the third set and from then I was able to stick to the game plan and keep going."
He described the result as one of the best of his career.
The onus to bring India back then shifted to Bhambri, who did not disappoint.
In the opening set, Yuki broke Statham, ranked 345, in the fifth game for a 3-2 lead and consolidated his position with an easy hold in the next.
The Indian youngster, ranked 151, was on top of his game as he broke Statham for the second time in the seventh game and served out the set.
An early break put Bhambri in the driver's seat. Statham held serve in the third game but dropped serve again in the fifth to hand the 23-year-old Bhambri a 4-1 cushion.
Bhambri had tightened his grip over the match and it was a matter of time before he served out the second too.
Statham raised his game a bit, putting up some fight against Bhambri as the first five games of the third set went on serve. However, Bhambri yet again found a way to get a break and created a lead of 4-2, following a break in the sixth game.
Bhambri held his serve in the next and at 2-5, Statham was serving to stay in the set. The Kiwi player managed to hold in the eighth game but could not stop Bhambri from serving out the match in the next.
With honours even, Saturday's doubles rubber featuring New Zealanders Marcus Daniell and Artem Sitak against the Indian pairing of Rohan Bopanna and Saketh Myneni looms as a crunch match.
India have the world's number 10 doubles player in Bopanna, fresh from reaching the doubles semi-final at Wimbledon. But Sitak and Daniell are ranked 43rd and 66th in doubles, respectively, and are more than capable of springing an upset.
The reverse singles is scheduled for Sunday.
The winner of the tie will qualify for the World Group Play-offs to be held in September.
(With inputs from AFP)