Davis Cup: India stun Brazil, stay in World Group


Chennai : India completed a magnificent and historic comeback to beat Brazil 3-2 to remain in the Davis Cup World Group by winning both the reverse singles here Sunday.

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In the first reverse singles, Somdev Devvarman, leading 7-6 (3), 4-0, benefitted when Thomaz Bellucci conceded after falling ill and then Rohan Bopanna tamed Ricardo Mello 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3, to clinch the tie for India.

The oppressive heat and humidity finally got to the Brazilians, who were sitting pretty at 2-0 after winning the opening singles Friday, but lost the doubles to the top Indian combination of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathy Saturday.

It was the first time that India have come back from a 0-2 deficit to clinch a tie and much of the credit should go to the Paes-Bhupathi tandem that won their 24th consecutive Davis Cup doubles tie.

“We are back to where we belong,” was how Bhupathi put the victory in perspective. “To come back after losing both matches on the first day is fantastic.”

When the 30-year old Bopanna, ranked 479, won the final point of the two-hour match against the higher ranked Mello, it triggered huge celebrations both on court and in the stands.

Bopanna was mobbed by his team-mates who raced on to the court while the spectators cheered and danced in joy in sharp contrast to the Brazilian bench that presented a forlorn picture after their challenge melted in the oppressive weather.

Overall, the Indians adapted to the conditions far better and their choice of venue and surface stood vindicated while the Brazilians, for all their pre-match optimism, just could not cope with the weather.

“The heat and humidity was good for me and Bops (Bopanna). It didn’t hurt us, but it helped us. I stand by my decision and it was a good call,” Somdev said.

Brazil team captain Joao Zwetsch said he was obviously disappointed that they lost after leading 2-0 and that the weather conditions did affect his players.

“It’s always disappointing to lose after leading 2-0, but I am proud the way our boys played. It is the end of the year and the boys are tired. The heat and the time difference made it difficult for us,” he said.

Bopanna, although not serving as well he would have liked to, still outplayed Mello for the best part of the three sets by firing more winners and being more composed despite the pressure he was under after Somdev’s victory left India’s hopes in his hands.

“I just went out there thinking positive and played freely. My captain (Shiv Prakash Misra) told me to focus on my serves and be aggressive. That’s precisely what I did. Of course, the encouragement I received from my team-mates did help,” said Bopanna.

On the other hand, the 29-year-old 75th-ranked Mello put on a game show, but it was obvious that the heat was getting to him. Towards the end, he appeared flatfooted and on occasions, did not bother to chase balls, like he did Friday when he beat Devvarman.

Bopanna, thus, more than compensated for the loss to Bellucci in Friday’s opening singles when he lost while leading 5-2 in the fifth set.

The Bangalorean, who last week reached the men’s doubles final at the US Open along with Pakistan’s Aisam Qureshi, won the first and third sets on service breaks in the fourth game.

Mello did his best to save the situation and his best moments were in the second set when he held breakpoints, but could not convert them.

“The turning point was in the second set when I led 5-4 and was up 40-30 on Bopanna’s serve, but I failed to convert. It became 2-0 instead of 1-1,” Mello recalled.

The loss in the tie-break effectively snuffed out Mello’s challenge as Bopanna consolidated his position in the third with an early break before coming through in a canter. He even had time to smile once he realised that his opponent had all but given up.

Earlier, Somdev looked the better player though he blew a few breakpoints and the first set spilled into a tie-break.

“My strategy was to move him around and not allow him to push me. It was more about attitude, really. I had recovered well from my Friday’s five-set match and was prepared for today’s match,” said Somdev.

Bellucci, looking pale and weak, said he fell ill in the tie-break. “I was tired after Friday’s match but had recovered. In the tie-break, I felt ill and could not continue in the second set,” he said.