Paes becomes the most successful player in the history of Davis Cup.

 

Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna notched up a hard fought win in the doubles contest to keep India’s chances alive in their Davis Cup Asia/Ocenia Group I tie against China here 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.

India now trail the hosts 1-2. Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal had lost their respective singles matches on Friday which handed China a 2-0 lead.

Now Ramanathan and Nagal will now have to win both the reverse singles if India is to qualify for the World Group Play-offs.

Needing a win in the doubles to keep India afloat in the tie, Paes stamped his class along with the experienced Bopanna.

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.

Earlier, after shock defeats of Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal on the opening day on Friday.

Ramanathan lost the first singles 6-7(4) 4-6 to China’s Yibing Wu, failing to lead the team in the absence of in-form Yuki Bhambri, who skipped the tie due to a minor abdomen injury.

The 18-year-old Chinese, who was junior world number one till very recently and won both singles and doubles junior US Open titles in 2017, dropped serve in the first game only to immediately break back and eventually take the set via tie-breaker.

Ramkumar had two break opportunties in the second set but could convert none and dropped serve once to let the home side take a 1-0 lead.

Young Sumit Nagal then failed to bring India back in the tie losing 4-6, 1-6 to Ze Zhang, ranked 247 in just 67 minutes.

India have managed to win a Davis Cup tie from being down 0-2 only once, in 2010 when they beat Brazil in Chennai with Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi winning the doubles and Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna producing thrilling victories on the last day.

Paes and Bopanna will now play a do-or-die third rubber against Mao-Xin Gong and Di Wu on Saturday. ians

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