India's Leander Paes created Davis Cup history by becoming the most successful doubles player with a record 43rd win before young guns Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran pulled off the must-win rubbers as India advanced to the World Group Play-offs with a sensational 3-2 win over China at Tianjin on Saturday.
In the must win doubles match, the 44-year-old Paes and Rohan Bopanna downed Chinese pair of Mao Xin Gong and Ze Zhang 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(3) to keep India afloat in the second round Asia/Oceania Group I tie. Ramkumar Ramanathan, who lost the opening singles, redeemed his reputation by defeating Di Wu 7-6(4), 6-3. The win levelled the tie 2-2. Captain Bhupathi then played a masterstroke by playing left-handed Prajnesh Gunneswaran instead of Sumit Nagal in the tie-deciding fifth rubber against the Chinese teen sensation Yibing Wu and the Chennai boy did not disappoint as he delivered a 6-4, 6-2 win to seal the tie for India.
It is only for the second time in India's Davis Cup history that the team has emerged victorious in a tie after being down 0-2. India will now compete in the World Group Play-offs for the fifth time in a row, having failed in four attempts in as many years. They 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. Paes was tied on 42 wins with Italian great Nicola Pietrangeli for long but finally surpassed him, albeit in a foreign land.