Whatever hope India had of beating Spain and progressing to the Davis Cup World Group ended after Leander Paes and Saketh Myneni lost the doubles rubber against Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. Spain have now gained an unassailable 3-0 lead in the 5-match tie, rendering the reverse singles inconsequential. Though up against the reigning Olympic champions in Nadal and Lopez, India would be disappointed not to have won the match after being in the driver’s seat for much of the tie.
Paes and Myneni came up short in the crucial moments as Nadal and Lopez showcased their class to fight back from adverse positions more than once during the match.
Leander Paes and Saketh Myneni started off in fantastic fashion by winning the first set. Paes, the wily customer that he is, looked composed against the Spanish duo early on and that seemed to rub off on Myneni who started to show his quality which had gone missing in the singles encounter against David Ferrer. Lopez and Nadal looked at ease at the net but the Indian pair dealt with them confidently.
But the Spaniards broke Paes' serve early on and then held serve to go 4-1 up. But a stunning reversal was to follow. India finally found their rhythm with Myneni holding serve and then broke Lopez’s serve to reduce the lead to 4-3. They proceeded to break Spain’s serve again, Nadal’s this time, to go up 5-4. The veteran Paes and Myneni were not to be denied and easily held serve to clinch the first set 6-4 and winning 5 continuous games in the process.
Indians, supremely confident after their recovery in the first set, looked to be cruising through the 2nd set at one point after going up a break early on, courtesy Myneni’s brilliant backhand cross-court winner. Both teams held serve from then on as Paes’ exquisite volleys and Myneni’s serves troubled the Nadal and Lopez.
And then all went wrong
But the Olympic champions showed what they were capable as they broke Myneni as he served for the set at 5-4. India could have broken back in the next game but wasted 2 break points to send the set into a tie-breaker.
India were extremely poor in the tie-break which finished 7-2 and Spain won the 2nd set 7-6 to pull level with the hosts.
With the vociferous crowd in New Delhi supporting both teams equally (thanks to Nadal’s presence in the opposition ranks), Spain began confidently and continued the trend of early breaks in the match by going 2-1 up after breaking the Indian serve.
Spain consolidated their lead as India failed to break back even though Paes and Myneni tried their best. The Indians fought hard to hold their serve and force Spain to serve out the 3rd set at 5-4 but could not prevent Nadal and Lopez from clinching the 3rd set 6-4 as Spain went up two sets to one.
The 4th set also saw an early break as a stung Paes and Myneni upped their game and went 2-0 up as Rafael Nadal double faulted. India stretched the lead to 4-1 even as Marc Lopez showcased exceptional sportsmanship to point out that the linesman had wrongly called a ball out in Spain’s favour.
An appreciating Paes and Myneni looked set to extend the match to a decider before the reigning Olympic champions decided to fight back yet again. They reeled off 5 games continuously, including 2 breaks, much like what India did in the opening set to win the set and the match 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4.