New Delhi:Two days ago, team captain Leander Paes had chastised him as being "unprofessional" but on Sunday when Prakash Amritraj turned out to be the "hero" of the team after winning the Davis Cup decider against Uzbekistan, the skipper had nothing but praise for him.
After the pulsating win in the last match of the Asia-Oceania tie, an emotionally choked Paes said he was proud of Amritraj and the whole team for the way they handled "adversity" over the week and emerged successful.
"There were some ups and downs for the team this week. But we stuck together and played with unity. I am proud of the whole team," he said.
"We did the toss and Prakash came to me and said 'Let us put behind all that has happened. It's just you and me on the court now.'
"We had a roller-coaster week with the media. I am
proud of Prakash and here is sitting my hero," Paes said.
As Amritraj was down with a stomach bug, Paes preferred young Somdev Dev Varman for the first singles match.
However, Amritraj later said he had recovered and was fully fit. Paes criticised him for going to the media and termed his partying, during which he got the stomach ailment, as "unprofessional".
"What we learnt here was that whatever we say in team meetings, it should remain in confidence. We tackled adversity and we believed in each other and that was important for the team," Paes said.
"I wanted him to take an extra day of rest. My gut feeling was that we will get there (decider). So I wanted him
to come out with fresh legs against Dustov."
Amritraj said he was motivated by the conversation he had with father Vijay just before the start of the match.
"I had a chat with my dad before the match. He told me of Maria Sharapova's comments after winning the Australian Open, 'Champions take chances and pressure is a privilege for them', which was Billy Jean King's message to her," he said.
"It was not my best perfromance on grass by any means. I was slow to start and not really serving well. It took me some time to get my bearings," Amritraj said.
"It is not a regular tournament. When we step out there, all your fear and insecurities dissappear." Paes was also full of praise for Rohan Bopanna who lost in the first reverse singles.
"Rohan has played excellent tennis throughout the weekend. He had a phenomenal week. This is the best I have seen him play on grass for a while. He has matured a lot and played like a champion."
Asked whether he will team up with Mahesh Bhupathi in the next tie against Japan, Paes said "I was looking forward to playing with him this week. But I got injured and though I could have played the doubles, I chose the in-form Mahesh. I believe in having at least three singles player, so it depends on form," he said.