India rally to beat China 3-2 in Davis Cup, seal World Group playoffs berth
Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna notched up a hard fought win in the doubles contest before Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran pulled off the must-win rubbers as India advanced to the World Group Play-offs with a 3-2 victory over China on Saturday.
The experienced Indian combination were made to sweat by the spirited Chinese pair of Mo Xin Gong and Ze Zhang before claiming a 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) victory.
It was a landmark moment for the 44-year-old Paes as he notched up a record 43rd Davis Cup victory to become the most successful player in the history of the tennis competition.
Paes was tied on 42 wins with Italian great Nicola Pietrangeli for a long time, but the Kolkata born star finally surpassed him with his 43rd victory.
Meanwhile, Ramanathan, lost the opening singles on Friday, came back strongly to beat Di Wu 7-6(4), 6-3.
The win levelled the tie 2-2 after which captain Mahesh Bhupathi fielded left-handed Prajnesh Gunneswaran instead of Sumit Nagal in the tie-deciding fifth rubber against the Chinese teen sensation Yibing Wu.
Gunneswaran did not disappoint as he delivered a 6-4, 6-2 win to seal the tie for India in dramatic fashion.
Prajnesh replaced Yuki Bhambri who pulled out due to an abdomen injury. This is the second time in India’s Davis Cup history that the team has emerged victorious in a tie after being down 0-2.
Ramanathan and Nagal had lost their respective singles matches on Friday which handed China a 2-0 lead.
Needing a win in the doubles to keep India afloat in the tie, Paes stamped his class along with the experienced Bopanna earlier in the day.
In the first set, Paes’ service was broken in the 11th game after the two pairs were tied at 5-5. The Indians got more break opportunities than the hosts but struggled to kill it off. The Indians broke Gong in the third game for a 2-1 lead and then held on.
In the decider, Paes and Bopanna frittered away a 3-1 lead by losing three games in a row to trail 3-4.
Paes came out to serve at 5-6 and went down 0-30 but the veteran used all his experience to pull off the crucial hold to force another tie-breaker.
In the tie breaker, Paes and Bopanna used all their experience to roll over the lower-ranked Chinese and pull off the triumph.