Indian Tennis

Looking back: From Amritraj specials to Paes magic, these are India’s best Davis Cup performances

It’s a legacy dotted with some rich performances, both with wins as well as losses.

Since making their Davis Cup entry in 1921, India’s best results in the team-based tournament have been reaching the final thrice – in 1966, 1974 and 1987.

India lost comprehensively in the 1966 and 1987 finals, to Australia (4-1) and Sweden (5-0) respectively. The 1974 final against South Africa was forfeited by India as a form of protest against the apartheid policies practiced in the country.

Aside of these notable results, there have also been other memorable results for India in the tournament, especially in the World Group Play-offs and World Group stages of the draw. As Mahesh Bhupathi and his men get ready for their World Group Play-off tie against Canada, starting Friday, here’s looking back at five of India’s most interesting results in the event:

1987 World Group Semi-final: India beat Australia 3-2

In an away tie, India faced Australia on grass at the White City Stadium in Sydney in the semi-final that year. The home team went in as the favourites with a (then) 6-2 overall head-to-head and it was expected that the visitors would lose their third straight Davis Cup tie to the Australians on the trot, after losses in the 1977 and 1979 zonal semi-final ties.

However, it was India who began confidently taking a 2-0 lead after winning both singles rubbers on the opening day. Ramesh Krishnan started off with a win over John Fitzgerald, with Vijay Amritraj following suit with a win over Wally Masur.

Australia went on to narrow the deficit by winning the doubles rubber and the first of the latter reverse singles rubber. Pat Cash and Peter Doohan completed a straight sets win over Anand Amritraj and Srinivasan Vasudevan. This was followed by Fitzgerald getting the better of Vijay – again in straight sets – in the reverse singles. In the fifth rubber, Krishnan trumped Masur in straight sets to send India to their third – and till now, last – Davis Cup final.

1993 World Group Quarter-final: India beat France 3-2

It’s no secret that Indian players were a force to reckon with on grass. But, India’s away win against France in the 1993 World Group quarter-final is one instance when India survived the odds and triumphed on outdoor clay in Cannes.

To start with, Arnaud Boetsch gave France a 1-0 lead by beating Krishnan in the opening singles rubber in straight sets. However, Leander Paes equalled the tie promptly by winning the second rubber against 1988 French Open finalist Henri Leconte. The hosts once again took the lead after the doubles rubber as Boetsch and Leconte prevailed over Paes and Krishnan.

However, the deciding two rubbers went India’s way as Paes defeated Boetsch in their reverse singles rubber, before Krishnan defeated Rodolphe Gilbert in the deciding rubber.

1997 World Group Qualifying First Round: India beat Chile 3-2

Image Credit: Kamal Kishore/ Reuters
Image Credit: Kamal Kishore/ Reuters

In their first – and only – tie against Chile, India prevailed in a tough contest in the home tie in New Delhi, with Mahesh Bhupathi and Paes forming a tight-knit duo in singles and doubles.

Paes put the hosts ahead with a win over Gabriel Silberstein in the first singles rubber, only to have Marcelo Rios level the tie with a win over Bhupathi. Paes and Bhupathi then joined forces to put India ahead again with a gritty 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3 win over Rios and Nicolas Massu. Rios’ win in his reverse singles rubber against Paes once again tied the score-line between the two teams.

The second reverse singles rubber between Bhupathi and Silberstein went the distance with both players vying for a World Group berth for their respective teams. Eventually Bhupathi prevailed, overturning a two-sets-to-love deficit to win 6-7(4), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 and enable India to retain its place in the 16-team World Group field.

2010 World Group Play-offs: India beat Brazil 3-2

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A loss to Russia in the World Group first round that year saw India host Brazil in Chennai in the World Group Play-offs for a chance to stay in the elite draw.

Thomaz Bellucci and Ricardo Mello put Brazil in a formidable position with a 2-0 lead. Bellucci defeated Rohan Bopanna in a hard-fought five-setter, winning 6-7(2), 7-6(7), 7-5, 4-6, 10-8, while Mello beat Somdev Devvarman in an equally fraught match that ended 4-6, 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4 in his favour.

Even as it seemed to be an uphill climb for India, the home team pulled off one of the best turnarounds in their 81-year Davis Cup history. Paes and Bhupathi first revved up India’s morale with a straight sets win in the doubles rubber against Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo. In the first of the reverse singles rubbers, Devvarman claimed a win after his opponent, Bellucci retired while trailing 7-6(4), 4-0. Finally, Bopanna clinched a straight sets win over Mello to ensure India’s presence in the World Group remained uninterrupted.

2014 World Group Play-offs: Serbia beat India 3-2

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Since 2014, India has been consistently featuring in the World Group Play-offs. However, drawn against tougher opponents it has been unable to take its place in the World Group. While in the last couple of years, India’s performances in the World Group Play-offs have dipped drastically, 2014 was one year when it seemed India would defy expectations to make it all the way.

Playing hosts to Serbia in Bangalore, India found itself in a huge spot of bother with the visitors gaining a 2-0 lead in the tie. Dusan Lajovic beat Yuki Bhambri in straight sets, while Devvarman suffered a four-set defeat to Filip Krajinovic in the singles rubbers.

In the doubles rubber, too, it was a tough start for India as Paes and Bopanna trailed the Serbian team of Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic by two-sets-to-love. However, the Indians righted the rubber in the latter three sets to win 1-6, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3, 8-6 to keep India within distance of causing an upset in the tie.

Devvarman kept up the India momentum alive well into the fourth rubber as he gained a 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Lajovic. But, Krajinovic’s straight sets win over Bhambri in the deciding rubber put paid to Indian hopes in quite a dampening twist to the tie.

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