Olympic champions Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez fought like tigers to seal the tie 3-0 for Spain, with a 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4 victory in the doubles over Leander Paes and Saketh Myneni, in the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie at the R.K. Khanna Stadium on Saturday.
There was no doubt that Saketh was top class, but Paes stepped up his game to his classy levels and inspired the 28-year-old Saketh to a robust standard. The Indian pair played brilliantly to recover from a slow start, to be ahead 6-4 and 5-3, but Nadal and Lopez, who dropped serve back to back in the first set from a position of strength at 4-1, turned the match around when Saketh was serving for the second set in the tenth game.
After saving one breakpoint with an ace, Saketh tried too cute a touch on a put-away, and paid for the lapse. The Spaniards saved two breakpoints to hold serve in the 11th game, when Lopez served. The Spanish class was evident in the way they ran away with the tie-break, first to 5-0 before closing it out at 7-2.
Into the third set, the Indian pair lost the momentum when Paes dropped serve in the third game. The match came alive, much to the jubilation of the fans who faithfully stayed back, when Nadal was broken at love in the second game of the fourth set. Nadal delivered a double-fault on breakpoint, which only showed the intensity of the contest.
Paes did very well to save two breakpoints in the fifth game to take a 4-1 lead, but the Spaniards broke Saketh’s serve in a long-drawn seventh game, to jump right back into the driver’s seat.
After saving two breakpoints, Saketh put a volley out to face the third breakpoint and Nadal smacked an overhead to seal the break.
Thereafter, it was a lost cause for the host. Paes dropped serve in the ninth game, and Nadal served out the match without any fuss.
Nadal, who had opted out of the singles on the opening day, was pleased to have played his role well in putting Spain back into the World Group. He was all praise for the Indian team and the fight that they put up.
“Leander Paes is one of the best players in the history of doubles. For us it was important to get back to the World Group.
“It was a great match. Many thanks to all the fans.” said Nadal, who conceded that India was “very close” to his heart as he had a part of his Foundation in Anantapur.
Paes, who was looking for a record win in doubles in Davis Cup, asked the crowd for a standing ovation for the Spaniards. It was high-quality fare that spanned three hours and 24 minutes, and the crowd responded promptly with a warm rounds of applause.
“They are a champion side. They fought for every point,” said Paes, as he showered praise on the reigning Olympic champions. Paes was equally appreciative of Saketh and said that he enjoyed playing with him.
The fact that Paes and Saketh, playing for the first time together, pushed the Olympic champions to play their best tennis, was a double treat for the tennis fans who thronged the stadium.
Spain bt India 3-0 (Rafael Nadal & Marc Lopez bt Leander Paes & Saketh Myneni 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4.