Leander Paes blamed wrong strategy for India’s doubles defeat to New Zealand’s Artem Sitak and Michael Venus in their Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie here on Saturday.
“It was a really tough match, a mental battle out there. We dominated the first set but started playing safe after that. We had many chances in the second set, four break points, but could not capitalise,” said the 43-year-old, who has won 18 Grand Slam titles in men’s doubles and mixed doubles titles combined in 27 years on the circuit.
He said the Kiwi players, ranked higher them Paes and partner Vishnu Vardan, served into their body regularly and they could not counter that tactic.
Paes and India’s non-playing captain, Anand Amritraj, bemoaned the lack of luck on crucial points. “The opponents were world class players, one is ranked around 55 and the other is 35 in the rankings (Venus is 36, Sitak 56), whereas Vishnu just joined us two days back after Saketh (Myneni) pulled out.
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“Still both Leander and Vishnu played superbly. We lost the match but we fought hard and lost,” said Amritraj, after his players lost 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(6), 3-6.
Vardhan played superbly, serving big and returning well too, but for a couple of points in the third set when the Kiwis put him under a lot of pressure. “Coming to play without much preparation, I thought I would be nervous but when I stepped on to the court, I did not feel anything. With Leander on the court and helping me with his encouraging words, I tried my best. I wish I could play those points in the third set again,” said the crestfallen 29-year-old from Hyderabad.
India’s now look forward to the reverse singles. “Doubles was their strength and they won that. Singles is our strength so I hope we will win the first reverse singles and make it 3-1. Ramkumar is up first and he played really well on the opening day,” said Amritraj.
New Zealand captain Alistair Hunt was happy with how things turned out in the doubles. “The boys played well against a good combination in difficult conditions as the crowd was really going after them. We are still alive in the tie and hope to capitalise on the momentum in the reverse singles,” he said.