Indian stalwart Leander Paes' hopes of winning a record 43rd Davis Cup lay in tatters after he and partner Vishnu Vardhan lost to Artem Sitak and Michael Venus in the doubles rubber against New Zealand on Saturday.
However, India still lead the tie 2-1 due to Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan's wins in the first round of singles rubbers on Friday. Down 0-2 after losing the first two singles to the Indians, Sitak and Venus rallied to take a convincing 3-6 6-3 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 win in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The defeat meant that Paes will have to wait further to overtake Italian Nicola Pietrangeli for most wins in doubles in Davis Cup history. Both the two players are tied on 42 wins.
Ramkumar is set to take on Finn Tearney on Sunday before Yuki competes against Jose Statham in the final rubber of the tie.Both the Kiwis, Venus and Sitak were ranked higher than the Indian duo in doubles and displayed extraordinary technique to snatch the advantage away from the Indians.
Paes and Vardhan started in style and raised the 4000-strong capacity crowd's hopes at the Shiv Chatrapati Sports Complex by clinching the opening set in 28 minutes by breaking Venus in the sixth game.
But the New Zealand pair fought back superbly by winningthe second set in 32 minutes by breaking Paes service once and then clinched the third set, in which the Indians squandered two break point chances.
With the momentum having shifted to the visitors, it was no surprise when they got an early service break, in the second game of the fourth set when Vardhan dropped his serve, before closing out the set and the match.
In the first set Vardhan served a couple of aces in succession to dig his way out of trouble. Paes followed suit with a fine return of serve before clinching the point with across court winner to break the Kiwis serve at 15 that put the hosts 4-2 ahead.
The veteran, ranked 64th in doubles, then held serve at 15 and although Sitak was faced with a must-win situation tohold serve and stay in the set he managed it well by holding at love.
The lowly ranked Vardhan, did not let go of the advantage and went up to 40-0. Although the Kiwis fought their way back to 40-30 but had no chance when the 29-year-old Indian served a timely fourth ace to close out theset.
The Kiwis, both ranked higher than the Indian duo in doubles, hit back by clinching the second set in 31 minutes,one break of serve off Paes?s delivery in the fourth game thatgave them a 3-1 lead doing the trick.
Although Paes and Vardhan began brilliantly to clinch the opening set in 28 minutes, they were no match for the rampaging Kiwis who counter attacked to win both the second and third set. The visitors completely dominated the match as the momentum shifted in their favour and steamrolled the Indians with ease.
With PTI inputs