Tenacity of Somdev and Voest engineered a superb tennis game which the Indian won 3-6, 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4 a after four-hour and 38-minute battle at the Ellis park indoor stadium. The hosts needed to win the fourth-rubber to stay alive but India took an unassailable 3-1 lead with this triumph.
Later, Yuki Bhambri made a memorable debut in the DavisCup, scoring an emphatic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 over Izak Van der Merwe in the dead fifth rubber of the play-off tie, which India won by a comprehensive 4-1 margin.
"It could not have been better for me. As a youngster, I grew up watching Leander (Paes) and Mahesh (Bhupathi) from the stands and got the inspiration to be part of the team. Today it's a dream come true for me," a beaming Yuki said.
India last played in the 16-team World Group in 1998 when it lost 1-4 to Italy. Thrice India reached the final of the World Group but ended up runners-up on all occasions.
Voest put his heart and soul into the do-or-die match but Somdev showed that he had the class to beat champions.
Down by two sets, Somdev created an incredible comeback as he overcame an early drop of serve to break Voest in the fourth game of the third set and won it via tie-breaker to keep the Indian challenge alive.
The prolonged battle started to take a toll on Voest as his shots became feeble, unforced errors began to flow and Somdev gradually took control of the match. He raced to a 5-1 lead in the fourth set by breaking the South African twice.
The Indian wrapped up the set in the eighth game and it all boiled down to the fifth and decisive set. Heart-stopping show followed in the final set as Somdev and Voest raised the level of the game by several notches.
Somdev broke Voest in the fifth game to shoot into lead though he had a chance to break him in the first game as well. The South African hung in, saving three break points in the seventh game but it was Somdev’s day as he served out the set in the 10th game, converting his second match point.Voest’s strategy of attacking the net reaped rich dividends as his defence was almost unbreachable.
Earlier, Somdev worked hard to set up points but a determined Voest foiled those attempts with smart tennis. He got plenty of chances to break his opponent but the South African did not let the Indian succeed.
The South African though was not ready to the miss the chance when consecutive backhand and forehand errors by Somdev created a break chance for the hosts in the fifth game and Voest created a 3-2 lead.
Somdev was struggling to land his shots within the marked lines on crucial points at that time but as the match wore on, the Indian grew in strength.