Bangalore: Not just on the court, Leander Paes is invaluable to this Davis Cup team even on the sidelines.
India's Somdev Devvarman is congratulated by Leander Paes as Rohan Bopanna (left) and Zeeshan Ali (right) look on. Pic/PTI
As India's top player Somdev Devvarman worked hard towards packing off his tired opponent, Dusan Lajovic, in the first reverse singles, Paes' tactical acumen further helped his cause.
"Leander was reading the game very well," said Somdev, who fought back from a set down twice in the match to beat Serbia's No 1 player in five tiring sets and take the Davis Cup World Group playoff tie into the decider. "He was telling me when to stay back or move forward, and his tactics were spot on."
Paes, who along with Rohan Bopanna, pushed the tie into the third day with a stirring comeback win in the doubles rubber on Saturday, was seen waving the flag and egging the crowd on from the bench.
With more than two decades of experience on the tour and being a 14-time doubles Grand Slam champion, Somdev could not have asked for a better 'coach' yesterday.
The one incident that really shone a light on it was when Somdev was serving out for the fourth set. After a rash of five service breaks, the Indian was serving to level the match at 5-3, and on the final point, Paes was seen signalling Somdev to come ahead.
Though the 29-year-old missed the first serve, he was brave enough to rush to net on the second. A neat drop volley, with Lajovic caught well behind the baseline, clinched the set in India's favour.
"Lee reads the game very well. He told me that when under pressure the opponent is likely to stand back, and that's exactly what happened."
The win over World No 61 Lajovic may also well give Somdev's season a shot in the arm. The Indian has struggled on the tour this year, dropping to 144 in the rankings, but an important win, in his signature resilient style, may turn the tide.
"It is still a difficult life on the tour," said Somdev. "But obviously matches like these help to give you the confidence."