Somdev Devvarman kept India’s hopes alive in the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie with a 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-3 victory over Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic, in Delhi, on Friday.
The India No 2, ranked 164, produced a solid all-round display to overwhelm the No 40-ranked Czech in two hours, 44 minutes and maintain his record of not losing a singles match on centre-court at the R K Khana stadium.
Earlier, Lukas Rosol gave the Czech Republic a 1-0 lead, proving too strong for Yuki Bhambri in the opening singles.
The world No 85 thrashed the 125-ranked Indian No 1 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 in an hour and 55 minutes.
On Saturday, the Indian team of Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna will fight it out with Radek Stepanek and Adam Pavlasek.
The reverse singles will be played on Sunday.
Somdev hasn’t lost a single match at the venue since 2010 while Vesley has never won a live rubber in his Davis Cup career.
The Indian had suffered defeats against players ranked outside 400 (Emilio Gomez, 402) on the Challenger circuit in a very ordinary 2015 season thus far, but pulled it off when it mattered most.
"It's more of a relief. I enjoy playing here. It's a team effort; it's because of them that I could perform," said Somdev said after the inspiring victory.
In complete contrast to the first singles in which the first set was over in just 24 minutes, Somdev and Vesley were engaged in a battle of attrition. 27 minutes into the match the score was 2-1 on serve as a baseline slugfest went on.
There were seven break chances in those three games - four for Somdev, but no player could convert. The Indian raised the level of his game by several notches as he sprayed winners - a staggering 32 - all over the court and hit 11 aces in the first set. The serve was not fierce but Somdev found the perfect angles to keep the ball out of Vesley's reach.
Vesley was accurate in his drop shots, one of which earned him a break in the first game of the second set.
Somdev had saved two break-points before that in the game but Vesley placed a perfect touch from just inside the baseline and the ball dropped dead along the net.
The next game saw Somdev served at love and get the break back in the sixth when Vesley double-faulted at 15-40.
All fired up with his effort, the Indian hit three consecutive aces to take a 4-3 lead.
After playing five deuce points and saving a break chance in the ninth game, Somdev wriggled out of that tough corner with his 18th ace.
Vesley, serving to stay in the set, saved two set points but double-faulted on third to hand Somdev a 2-0 lead.
The Czech could never find a way to challenge Somdev after that and was mentally drained. He dropped serve in fourth game to let Somdev lead 3-1 and it was a matter of time before the Indian closed the contest.
Vesley hit a forehand to net on second match point and Somdev threw his racquet in the air in jubilation.
The temperature was 31 degrees Celsius at the start of the earlier match but neither the warm conditions nor Yuki’s game threatened the tall Czech, who was ranked as high as 26 last year.
Rosol served extremely well and hit his groundstrokes flat as he imposed himself on Yuki. The Czech player played smartly and served in the range of 200km per hour and sometimes more than that, firing as many as 11 aces in the match.
Yuki put up some resistance in the third set but could not utilise the chances that came his way, squandering as many as five break-points in the 10th game.
The Czech, who beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012 in the second round, fired five service winners in that game alone after ebbing down 0-40, thus showing his cool temperament under pressure.
Rosol hit 50 winners to 21 of Yuki and made for his six double-faults with his huge game.
The only time Yuki could trouble the Czech was when he engaged his opponent in long rallies but those were very few.