Novi Sad: Rohan Bopanna put up a gallant fight against world number 18 Viktor Troicki before losing as India conceded a 0-1 lead against top seed and defending champions Serbia in the first round of the Davis Cup World Group tie here on Friday.
A formidable doubles player but ranked 629 in singles, Bopanna lost 3-6 3-6 7-5 6-3 3-6 in the first singles after fighting for three-hours and 19 minutes at Spens Sports Center.
The onus to bring India back in the tie lies with the 93rd rank Somdev Devvarman, who will now lock horns with world number 45 Janko Tipsarevic in the second singles.
Bopanna defied odds to stage an excellent comeback as he was down by two sets but kept fighting and things changed when he grabbed the must-win third set with a break of serve in the 12th game.
Going with the momentum, Bopanna came out firing on all cylinders, reducing the sea-difference between the rankings to mere a number, and stretched the match to the deciding fifth set.
A lot of drama followed when Bopanna was serving for the fourth set in the ninth game having broken Troicki in the previous game as he argued with the chair umpire over a call.
Already incense with the home crowd, which was making a lot noise in backing the son of the soil, Bopanna lost his cool when a call resulted in his double fault.
India captain S P Misra was also not happy as many of the calls earlier also went against Bopanna.
However, Bopanna after saving two breakpoints in that game, stunned the crowd by winning the set when a Troicki return kissed the net.
A great comeback, though, did not produce the desired result for the Indian, who suddenly lost momentum as he dropped his serve twice to go down 0-4 in the deciding set. Troicki raised his game at crucial juncture and justified his top-20 rank by giving his side a 1-0 lead.
Strong on their serves, Bopanna and Troicki played some scintillating tennis in the first set and throughout. The Indian saved two breakpoints in the opening game, in which he committed three double faults, to eventually hold.
Troicki, on the other hand, had more control and fired two aces to start with a bang. Bopanna, known for his booming serves, improved soon and held two consecutive service games at love to lead 3-2.
However, the double faults kept haunting Bopanna and three such faults combined with a few other unforced errors resulted in first break of serve as Troicki led 4-3 and consolidated the lead to 5-3 with a hold in the next game.
The Serbian, encashed on erring Bopanna and sealed the first set when the Indian hit a forehand long, although after saving a set point.
Bopanna though bounced back brilliantly in the second set and converted his third chance in the first game to grab early break and led 2-0.
He saved two chances on his serve to make it 3-1 but the unforced errors again proved costly as the Indian dropped his serve in the sixth game to allow the home favourite to draw parity.
Bopanna needed to curb his unforced errors but the story remained same and that allowed Troiciki claw his way back and took it out of the reach of the Indian by getting two mere breaks - sixth and eighth games.