India face first defeat at Asia level in five years after Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal go down tamely.
The Indian Davis Cup team was staring at defeat at the zonal level for the first time in five years following shock defeats of Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal on the opening day of the second round tie against China, in Tianjin, on Friday.
In the absence of the in-form Yuki Bhambri, who skipped the tie due to a minor abdomen injury, Ramanathan was expected to deliver but he ended up losing the first singles 6-7(4), 4-6 to China's new tennis sensation Yibing Wu.
The 18-year-old Chinese, who was junior world No 1 till recently and won the junior singles and doubles US Open titles in 2017, dropped serve in the very first game of the match but immediately broke back and eventually took the set via the tie-breaker.
Ramkumar, who has risen to career-best rank of 132 in singles and a victory over top-10 player Dominic Thiem, had two break chances in the second set against the world number 332 but could convert none and dropped serve once to let the home side take a 1-0 lead.
The onus to bring India back in the tie was on young Sumit Nagal, ranked 213, but the Haryana youngster lost 4-6, 1-6 to Ze Zhang, ranked 247 in just 67 minutes.
India's non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi described the opening day as "shocking".
"It was a disappointing display by both. No hunger, no fight and no aggression," Bhupathi said.
India have won a Davis Cup tie from being down 0-2 only once. It was in 2010 when they beat Brazil in Chennai, with Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi winning the doubles and then Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna producing thrilling victories on the last day.
Paes and Bopanna will now play a do-or-die third rubber against Mao-Xin Gong and Di Wu on Saturday.
If India win the doubles match, Paes will become the most successful doubles player in the history of the Davis Cup. He is tied on 42 wins with Italian great Nicola Pietrangeli.
The last time India lost a tie at the Asia/Oceania level was in February 2013 when all the top players, led by Somdev, had boycotted the contest against Korea and the depleted Indian side lost 1-4 in New Delhi.
Since then, India haven’t lost a tie in the zonal competition, consistently reaching the World Group Play-off stage. However, they could not cross the final hurdle and lost to Serbia (2014), Czech Republic (2015), Spain (2016) and Canada (2017).
The last time India competed in the elite 16-nation World Group was in 2011 when it lost to Serbia in an away first round tie.
Davis Cup: India lose opening singles to China