At the age of 16, paes had made his Davis Cup debut in 1990 alongside Zeeshan Ali, who is now the coach of the side, and grew into a legend in the company of Bhupathi, who is now the captain of the team.
During his illustrious career, Paes weaved the longest unbeaten winning streak of 24 matches in Davis Cup with Bhupathi, with whom he ruled the ATP circuit in the late 90s.
Bopanna had expressed reluctance to play with Paes in this tie against China but Paes played well today. Dropping serve in the third set was the only blemish as he stayed strong in his service games. His ‘missile’ serves proved too hot to handle for the Chinese and Paes, as usual, was superb at the net.
After trading a break each, the two pairs were tied 5-5 when Paes was broken in the 11th game of the opening set. Gong served it out in the next, saving a break chance in between.
The fight was on with the Indians getting more break opportunities than the home players but struggled to deliver the knock-out punch.
Bopanna served too big and the Chinese were not even coming close to making impactful returns. The Chinese nevertheless stayed strong on their serves and there was no break of serve in the second set.
Gong came out to serve under pressure at 5-6 and faced a set point too but managed to stretch it to the tie-breaker.
It was tight in the tie-breaker as well as it became 3-3 and then 5-all. Bopanna smashed an overhead volley winner to earn the team’s second set point and Paes nailed it easily.
The Indians broke Gong in the third game for a 2-1 lead and consolidated it.
In the decider, the Indians (paes)lost three games in a row to be down 3-4 from a commanding 3-1 lead. It happened when Bopanna, who was serving effortlessly big and hot till then, dropped his serve in the sixth game.
Paes came out to serve at 5-6 and went down 0-30 but pulled off the crucial hold to force another tie-breaker.