Leander Paes’ hopes of creating a world record in Davis Cup were dashed when the veteran Indian and Vishnu Vardhan lost the third rubber to strong rivals Artem Sitak and Michael Venus, who kept the New Zealand alive in the Asia-Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie in Pune on Saturday.
Down 0-2 after losing the first two singles to the home team, Sitak and Venus rallied to take a convincing 3-6 6-3 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 win in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The defeat for Paes and his partner meant that the 43-year-old Indian stalwart could not overtake Italian Nicola Pietrangeli for most wins in doubles in Davis Cup history. The two players are tied on 42 wins.
India, who are now 2-1 ahead in the tie, will now need to win one of the two reverse singles tomorrow to clinch a place in the second round. India had taken a 2-0 lead on day one with Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan winning the first two singles. On Sunday, Ramkumar will take on Finn Tearney before Yuki takes on Jose Statham in the final rubber of the tie.
Paes and Vardhan started in style and raised the 4000-strong capacity crowd’s hopes at the Shiv Chatrapati Sports Complex by clinching the opening set in 28 minutes.
But the New Zealand pair fought back superbly by winning the second set in 32 minutes by breaking Paes’ service once and then clinched the third set, in which the Indians squandered two break point chances.
With the momentum having shifted to the visitors, it was no surprise when they got an early service break, in the second game of the fourth set when Vardhan dropped his serve, before closing out the set and the match.
The Kiwis, both ranked higher than the Indian duo in doubles, never looked back after the first set.
Paes also had an indirect dig at higher ranked Rohan Bopanna who allegedly did not heed to the last minute SOS, after Saketh Myneni’s injury.
“Rankings to me don’t justify playing for the country or Davis cup. People handle pressure differently, some rise to the occasion some crumble under pressure. This guy has heart that’s important when your are put under pressure even though we lost today. Vishnu stood up to everything. “