Davis Cup: How's that for a comeback?
Paes says the fightback against Serbia in Bopanna's company on Saturday was the best in his long career
Bangalore: Miracles do happen. If you were at the KSLTA stadium on Saturday you witnessed nothing short of a monumental comeback, when Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna virtually looked dead and buried trailing by two sets and a break, but scripted one of the most memorable fightbacks Indian tennis has witnessed.
Leander Paes (left) and Rohan Bopanna celebrate a point against Serbia's Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac in Bangalore on Saturday. Pic/PTI
After three hours of nerve-jangling tennis, the Indians prevailed 1-6 6-7 (4), 6-3 6-3 8-6 over Serbs Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac in the Davis Cup World Group playoff. India thus stayed alive in the tie, but Serbia still leads 2-1 lead into the reverse singles on Sunday.
For the Indians it is another marvelous doubles victory as the Serbian duo had beaten the illustrious Bryan brothers (Bob and Mike) in a Davis Cup rubber last year.
"This is the best doubles comeback I have ever made in the Davis Cup," an exuberant and exhausted Paes said. "Whenever Rohan leads he uses his big frame to cover the court and that makes a difference. And that's what he did in the third, fourth and fifth sets to help us triumph."
Bopanna felt a change of racket in the third set did the trick. "I served and volleyed much better with the new racket, and I had a lot of confidence in my ability." Leander stuck to his guns of skipping the Asian Games. "I have already made a commitment to play with Radek Stepanek in Kuala Lumpur.
This tournament clashes with the Asiad so there is no way I can go to Incheon." Earlier, one never expected the heroics from the Indian duo, as their minds seemed some place far away in the first two sets. The Serbs raced through the first set dropping just one game. The second set was fought tooth and nail.
Writing on the wall
The Serbs wrapped up the tiebreak on a another errant Bopanna backhand volley 7-4. The writing seemed very much on the wall as the Serbs broke Leander early in the third. World No 4 Zimonjic suddenly took a medical timeout for a neck spasm and the tide slowly turned to India's favour.
The 37-year-old Zimonjic was making a number of double faults especially from the deuce court. His returns often found the net and he started muffing up relatively comfortable volleys.
The Indians broke Zimonjic and Bazolcac to bag the third 6-3. In the fourth, once again Zimonjic faltered on his serve and the Indians took full advantage to take the match into an enthralling decider. Bopanna picked up his game, and he found his range on his serves. Leander recovered too and India won.
The internal politics in the All India Tennis Association (AITA) got messier as the parent body yesterday removed its Vice President Karti Chidambaram citing conflict of interest while the aggrieved official has decided to move court to challenge his expulsion.