TIANJIN, China -- Leander Paes made Davis Cup history and Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran won their reverse singles matches as India scripted a memorable comeback win over China here on Saturday. India, who had been trailing the hosts 2-0 at the start of the day, thus advanced to the world group play-offs.
Paes became the most successful player in the history of the Davis Cup as he combined with Rohan Bopanna to grab a record 43rd win. Paes, 44, and Bopanna beat the Chinese pair of Mao 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.
After trading a break each in the first set, the pairs were tied 5-5 when Paes was broken in the eleventh game. Gong served it out in the next, saving a break chance in between.
The Chinese stayed strong on their serves and there was no break of serve in the second set. Gong came out to serve under pressure at 5-6 and faced a set point too, but managed to stretch it to the tiebreaker. It was tight there as well as it became 3-3 and then 5-all. The Indians eventually won the tiebreaker 7-5.
In the decider, Paes and Bopanna lost three games in a row to be 3-4 down from a commanding 3-1 lead. It happened when Bopanna, who had serving effortlessly big so far, dropped his serve in the sixth game. Paes came out to serve at 5-6 and went down 0-30 but pulled off the crucial hold to force another tiebreaker. The experienced Indian pair dominated the lower-ranked Chinese in the tiebreaker and pulled off a win.
Paes had been tied on 42 doubles wins with Italian great Nicola Pietrangeli for long. He had made his Davis Cup debut in 1990 alongside Zeeshan Ali, who is now coach of the side.
In the first reverse singles, Ramkumar -- who copped criticism from captain Mahesh Bhupathi for his lacklustre show in the opening singles -- defeated Di Wu 7-6(4), 6-3. The win levelled the tie 2-2.
India then fielded the left-handed Prajnesh instead of Sumit Nagal in the tie-deciding fifth rubber against Chinese teenager Yibing Wu. Prajnesh, who had come into the side after Yuki Bhambri pulled out due to an abdomen injury, did not disappoint as he won 6-4, 6-2 to seal the tie for India.