Thomaz Bellucci helped Brazil draw first blood in the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie against India, scoring a fighting five-set victory over Rohan Bopanna at the Nungambakkam stadium on Friday.
The 22-year-old held his nerve to overcome the 30-year-old Indian 6-7 (2), 7-6 (7), 7-5, 4-6, 10-8 in a baseline slugfest that lasted a little less than four-and-a-half hours.
The match was reminiscent of India's 2003 tie against the Netherlands at Zwolle, where Bopanna, despite having plenty of chances against Dutchman Martin Verkerk, squandered them all and lost 10-12 in the fifth.
It was the Indian player's 14th defeat in 21 singles in the prestigious team competition.
Bopanna, fresh from an impressive showing at the recent US Open, where he reached the final of men's doubles in partnership with Pakistan's Aisam Qureshi, was again found wanting in singles.
The 30-year-old has had most of his success in doubles but singles happen to be a different ball game altogether.
It is not about collective,but individual responsibility, and that is precisely where Bopanna failed despite having a slew of opportunities to close out the match.
Bellucci's win helped Brazil take the first step towards regaining that elusive berth in the elite World Group.
The match per se was not a great one by any means. It featured two players with limited abilities and the frailties in one's game lay exposed threadbare the moment the other applied some pressure.
The opening set was all about the serve, with Bopanna holding his service games with ease and Bellucci having a lot of trouble with the same.
In fact, the Brazilian struggled so much with his serve that he could consider himself fortunate not to have been broken in any of his six service games, even though his rival had two opportunities to do so.
However, Bellucci's luck deserted him in the crucial tie-break and two double-faults on his part ensured Bopanna had it easy, winning the tie-break 7-2.
The Indian carried the momentum into the second set and broke the Brazilian's serve in the first game itself.
However, Bellucci broke back in the next game. It went on serve thereafter till the 10th game, when Bopanna's error gave the Brazilian a set point.
He squandered it.
In the next game Bellucci offered Bopanna many an opportunity to take a two-set-to-love lead. Only the Indian didn't take them.
Never mind. He would have more such opportunities in a while.
The stage was soon set for a second tie-break, and, akin to the first, Bellucci made errors in a canter to ensure Bopanna three set points (at 6-3).
The Indian was, however, in no mood to receive any gift. Instead, he seemed keen to show the Brazilian a glimpse of Indian hospitality.
Bellucci reeled off four points on the trot and an ace down the middle helped him pocket the second set (9-7). And to add insult to injury broke the Indian to love in the opening game of the third set.
The Brazilian had regained his confidence and was starting to put pressure on his rival's serve while giving away little on his own.
It looked the break in the opening game would be enough to hand Bellucci the set when the Brazilian reached his first set point in the 10th game.
Bopanna, though, buoyed by a vociferous and palpably partial crowd, survived two set points and broke back.
It raised the home hopes again, only to see them squandered in the very next game, with Bellucci breaking for a second time in the set.
Having regained his advantage, the Brazilian was no mood to let it go again. He held to love to take a two-sets-to-one lead.
The fourth set went on serve till the 10th game when an error from Bellucci's racquet handed Rohan his first break point of the set.
He accepted it with gratitude, pocketing the set 6-4 and taking the match into a decider.
The fifth and final set started with a twin break. Bellucci broke in the opening game and the Indian returned compliment in the next.
Bopanna broke Bellucci's serve for a second time in the fourth game and then held his own to go up 4-1.
However, it did not turn out to be the decisive break that the Indian fans had expected. There was yet another twist, for the Brazilian clearly had other ideas.
Serving for the match at 5-3, Bopanna was broken and Bellucci held to make it 5-5.
Games went on serve till 8-8. And then it was an anti-climax for Indian fans who had been vociferously cheering for Bopanna.
Bellucci broke the Indian to love in the 17th game of the decider and held his own in the next.
Game, set and match to Brazil.