Leander Paes became the most successful player in the history of Davis Cup as he combined with Rohan Bopanna to not only grab a record 43rd win but also bring India back in tie against China on Saturday.
Forced to play together by All India Tennis Association (AITA), 44-year-old Paes and Bopanna downed a fighting Chinese pair of Mo Xin Gong and Ze Zhang 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(3) in the do-or-die doubles rubber of the Asia/Oceania Group I tie. India were trailing 0-2 in the tie after Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal suffered surprise tame defeats on Friday and needed a win in the doubles to stay alive in the tie.
Paes had made his Davis Cup debut in 1990 along side Zeeshan Ali, who is now coach of the side, and grew into a legend in company of Mahesh Bhupathi, who is now the captain of the side.
Bopanna had expressed reluctance to play with Paes in this tie against China but he 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 while Paes, as usual, was superb at the net.
The fight was on with the Indians getting more break opportunities than the home players but struggled to deliver the knock-out punch.
Paes and Bhupathi, who together ruled the ATP circuit in late 90s with their incredibly successful partnership, weaved the longest unbeaten winning streak of 24 matches.