A resilient Somdev Devvarman won the battle of nerves and wits as he pulled off a stunning five-set victory over world number 61 Dusan Lajovic to lock the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie against Serbia 2-2, here on Sunday.
Somdev overcame a sluggish start to carve out a heroic 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win after battling hard for three hours and 37 minutes as he dished out a memorable win.
Somdev has played his part and now India's fortunes depend on erratic Yuki Bhambri, who is pitted against Filip Krajinovic in the deciding fifth rubber at KSLTA stadium.
After being drubbed in the first set, Somdev showed amazing strength in his legs and an intelligent brain in his head as he regrouped amazingly to counter a very good opponent, who had reached French Open pre-quarterfinals this season.
Somdev saved eight breakpoints in the second set to revive his and India's chances and switched to serve and volley at crucial junctures, surprising his opponent.
Somdev was rewarded for taking risk as he is not a serve and volley player and has struggled in the past while coming forward to finish points.
Lajovic had dictated terms with his huge service game, at the start but after receiving treatment in his left leg after the second set he lost his rhythm, giving Somdev chance to gather his game.
Initially, Somdev could not play his usual retrieving game but as the match progressed as he could engage Lajovic in long points, giving himself chances to find cracks in the Serbian's game.
He serve became better and better and he also succeded in finishing points quickly. It was a huge turnaround in his game.
Somdev had a break point in the very first game but he was nowhere close to his game as he could won only three points on Lajovic's serve in the first set. Lajovic served huge and opened the court with ease to smash winners.
The Serbian kept hitting on Somdev's backhand and broke him in the fourth and sixth game to pocket the set in just 29 minutes. Somdev was uncharacteristically subdued. His game has always been of retrieving but he could not engage the Serbian in long rallies.
Lajovic finished games lightening quick as he served out most the game at love.
Somdev continued to struggle in the second set but somehow managed to hold serve. He saved three breakpoints in the first game, two in the third and another two in the fifth to stay afloat as he kept Lajovic engaged in the fight.
Lajovic received treatment for a problem in his left leg and that affected his performance. He struggled with his movement and serve, allowing Somdev to get back.
The Indian had three chances to break Lajovic in the sixth but could capitalize on none. Somdev saved another chance in the ninth and now Lajovic was serving to stay in the set.
For the first time the serve of the Serbian was under pressure. Somdev hit a forehand winner down the line to earn a set point and that was converted as Lajovic hit a forehand long.
With the crowd cheering for the son of the soil, the momentum shifted in India's favour as Somdev raced to a 4-1 lead in the third set, riding on an early break.
However, Lajovic was not ready to cave in and reeled off four games on the trot, breaking Somdev in the seventh and ninth games and stunned the Indian camp and the home fans by serving out the set in the next game.
The fans witnessed a phenomenal fight in the second game of the fourth set as the two players fought tooth and nail for points, playing six deuce points as Lajovic saved a break chance to finally hold serve.
But the Serbian was now feeling the heat. Somdev was now serving and returning well. Lajovic could not just stroke to Somdev's backhand and points were no longer finishing quickly.
The Indian broke Lajovic at love in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead but lost serve in the next. They exchanged break of serve again before Somdev snatched advantage again by with a backhand winner on the next break chance.
He served out the set with a serve and volley point.
Somdev was now approaching the net more consistently and was rewarded. He saved a breakpoint in the second game and nosed ahead in the decider by breaking Lajovic in the third game when a forehand from the Serbian sailed over the baseline.
Another forehand error from Lajovic at 30-40 in the seventh handed Somdev a chance to serve out the match and he did that with an inside out forehand winner.