'I was confident of success'

“Rankings go out of the window in Davis Cup. I tip my hats to these guys. I know how hard they worked and it is a privilege to be part of this team,” said Leander Paes.

Bopanna pointed out that the doubles victory had set up India’s eventual success and although the team fell 0-2 in arrears on the first day, he was still confident of pulling it off. “I went back (on Friday) to get treated and recover. I knew that we will be alive on Sunday as I was confident that Lee (Leander) and Hesh (Mahesh Bhupathi) would win the doubles. So, I came out today and played freely,” said Bopanna, who defied the odds to win the deciding rubber.

“I just went out there thinking positive and played freely. My captain (Shiv Prakash Misra) told me to focus on my serves and be aggressive. That’s precisely what I did. Of course, the encouragement I received from my team-mates did help,” said Bopanna.

Paes, referring to Somdev’s victory, said: “You may say he won by default, but I know how hard he has been working on his game. He won today without losing his serve. In fact, Bellucci broke mentally.”

Paes also paid rich tributes to the Brazilian team for having agreed to play the tie in India unlike Australia, who last year pulled out citing security concerns. “I have been to Brazil a number of times and played a bunch of tournaments there. Brazilians are beautiful people. It (Brazil agreeing to play in India) goes to show their passion for sports,” he said.

Paes felicitated

He is Indian tennis’ answer to Sachin Tendulkar, both in terms of longevity and commitment besides a consistent level of performance. The legendary Ramanathan Krishnan said as much in his moving speech at a felicitation to commemorate Paes’ 21 years in Davis Cup on Saturday.

Krishnan, himself a former Davis Cup captain with 43 victories, said: “Leander, (Viswanathan) Anand and Sachin (Tendulkar) emerged in the 1990s and became great sportspersons because of their feats. They broadbased sport in India as more youngsters wanted to emulate them.”

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