Another miracle

When pride, commitment and passion take over, rankings and reputation mean little on the field of play. Over the years, India’s Davis Cup players have proved it time and again, slaying many a fancied team in world tennis’ premier team competition. In Chennai on Sunday, another glorious chapter was added to the story when Rohan Bopanna outclassed Brazil’s Ricardo Mello in the fifth rubber, handing his team an improbable 3-2 win in the play-off tie.

Improbable, because, never in history had India reversed a 0-2 deficit despite their strong record of punching above their weight. In a city that has given the country some of its finest exponents in Davis Cup play, India’s fate seemed sealed after day one when both Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman lost their singles matches. But the tried and tested combination of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi earned them a toe-hold on the tie with victory in doubles before Devvarman — aided by a bit of luck as his opponent pulled up short — and Bopanna applied the finishing touches to ensure that the team stayed in the elite World Group of 16 teams. Viewed from any angle, it is a remarkable story, for the country does not have even one singles player ranked in the top-100. But then, India have a habit of scripting miracles in Davis Cup play — as they did when making it to the title-deciding rounds of the contest three times in the past with inspirational performances that should be the envy of many nations with established singles players in their ranks.

Every time the country gears up for a Davis Cup contest — and invariably after every famous victory — concerns pop up about the lack of depth in Indian tennis and the need to find support for the main players. While India’s options in terms of mounting a serious challenge at the world level are severely limited, it has to be said that the nation has always found men for the moment — from Ramanathan Krishnan to Vijay Amritraj and from Ramesh Krishnan to Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna now. As we mark the fall of another major rival, it will only be right to salute the never-say-die spirit of the tennis aces who will face far stiffer tests in the World Group next year.

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