Pune, Feb 4: Tennis stalwart Leander Paes rued the missed break-point chances that he and Vishnu Vardhan squandered after going down in four sets to the New Zealand pair of Michael Venus and Artem Sitak, here today, February 4.
"I thought it was a tough contest, a mental battle of strategy. We dominated the first set and in the second set we had them 15-40 down. But from that stage we started to play safe on our returns. At this level safe returns are not going to win matches our returns let us down a bit today," said Paes after India went down 6-3 3-6 6-7(8-6) 3-6.
The victory by the doubles team kept New Zealands hopes alive going into the last day of the tie tomorrow after they had lost the first two singles rubbers yesterday.
"We had five break points in the third set early. Especially at 2-3 the big man (Vardhan) serving 4-2 up it would have been different ball game. Margins were small.
"He then complimented Vardhan who had to rush down from his hometown just two days before the tie to fill in for the injured original singles and doubles choice Saket Myneni.
"I feel very proud of Vishunu fighting for country. He came here 48 hours, so close to the tie, and played his heart out.
"They had played in the Australian open right through and then had practiced here from Sunday. Still here he fought till the last point.
"His ranking (338 in doubles) does not justify his game which is world class. He is a very good leader. makes right decisions, gives and takes suggestions.
"Maybe I gave him too many suggestions on returning today. He plays much higher than his ranking.
"Today we dominated the first set against two guys who play doubles for bread and butter. He had Michael Venus in all sorts of trouble and in the second and third. He's playing very good tennis."
Paes also had an indirect dig at higher ranked Rohan Bopanna who did not heed to the last minute SOS sent from here.
"Rankings to me don't justify playing for the country or Davis cup. People handle pressure differently, some rise to the occasion some crumble under pressure.
"This guy has heart thats important when your are put under pressure even though we lost today. Vishnu stood up to everything."