Indian tennis pair Leander Paes and Saketh Myneni had a disappointing run on Saturday when they lost a Davis Cup match Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez, giving Spain an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tournament.
Nadal came to the party just when it mattered most as he partnered Lopez scripting a decisive win against Paes and Myneni in the Davis Cup Play-off tie against India.
Paes and Saketh Myneni, combining for the first time in Davis Cup, lost 6-4 6-7(2) 4-6 4-6 but not without a brave fight that tested the Rio Olympic gold medallist pair for three hours and 23 minutes in the must-win rubber. The defeat also prolonged the Indian legend's wait for the world record wins Davis Cup.
The Indian team was up by a set and a break but the Spaniards worked their way back aided by some game-changing errors by Myneni. It was the only match where the Spanish Armada could have faced some resistance and they did.
Playing his 54th tie, Leander Paes was eyeing a record of most number of doubles wins in the Cup history. He remains tied with Italian giant Nicola Pietrangeli on 42 wins.
"I will get it soon, I promise," said Paes after the match.
It was purely Nadal's prowess from the baseline as well as agility that negated the magic of Paes from the net.
Nadal was all praise for Paes whom he described as one of the biggest stars in doubles and one of the best players in the history of tennis.
"He (Leander) played a great match. It was so amazing tonight, it is a pleasure to play him here in his country. He is one of the biggest stars of doubles and one of the best player in the history of the sport," fourteen-time Grand Slam winner Nadal said.
Spain will now be back in the World Group after more than two years while India remain in the Asia/Oceania zone.
Myneni served well throughout, losing only 18 points on his serve in the entire match but a judgement error in the 10th game of the second set when he decided to go for a drop instead of killing the ball, cost India dear.
From there the momentum was lost as he also fumbled in the tie-break of the second set, making three consecutive errors, and that was enough Spaniards to claw their way back.
Nadal was brilliant from the back of the court and it was he who kept Spain fighting with Indians targeting Lopez.
It seemed like a good combination in making for India as Myeni supported Paes very well in the match.
The match began with high quality service games and with Nadal, Myneni and Lopez not losing a single point.
Paes though was broken in his very first service game with both the Indians committing unforced errors. Myneni netted an overhead volley to hand the Spaniards first break.
The visitors lost first point on their serve in the sixth when Myneni hit a service return forehand winner off Nadal.
The Indians though made a tremendous comeback by breaking first Lopez and then Nadal to lead 5-4.
The magical hands of Paes were at work with the veteran Indians finding the gaps with his backhand slices and volleys as his game complimented that of big-serving Myneni.