India beats Pakistan to qualify for Davis Cup 2020 qualifiers

Paes wins his 44th doubles match in the Davis Cup as India completes rout to earn a spot in the 2020 Qualifiers.

The jubilant Indian team after its defeat of Pakistan in Nur-Sultan on Saturday. Photo: Twitter (@Leander)

Leander Paes bettered his own Davis Cup record by winning his 44th doubles match as India blanked Pakistan 4-0 on Saturday to earn a spot in the 2020 Qualifiers. Pakistani teenagers Mohammed Shoaib and Hufaiza Abdul Rehman were no match for the Indian pair of Paes and debutant Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who needed just 53 minutes to win 6-1, 6-3.

Last year, Paes became the most successful doubles player in the history of Davis Cup when he won his 43rd match, surpassing Italian great Nicola Pietrangeli during the tie against China. The 46-year-old had taken 56 ties for his 43rd win while Pietrangeli competed in 66 ties for his 42 victories.

‘Staying solid’

“It was fabulous playing with Jeevan in his first Davis Cup match. Right from the beginning he did everything right. It was being about staying solid today. Jeevan has a big heart, he loves to play for [the] flag. I am proud to share the court with him,” said Paes.

“These guys keep me young, fresh and vibrant. They bring out the best in me. We have got a great mix of different generations and different age groups. It’s [a] lot of fun to be back to playing for India again,” added the winner of 18 Grand Slam titles.

Paes’ record of 44 wins in 57 ties is unlikely to be broken anytime soon as except him, none of the active doubles players feature in the top-10 list. Belarus’s Max Mirnyi, at No. 3, has 36 wins but hasn’t played on Tour since 2018.

‘Easy win’ for Nagal

In the reverse singles, Sumit Nagal trounced Yousaf Khalil 6-1, 6-0 for his second straight win. Both the sides opted not to play the dead fifth rubber. The fourth rubber is played even if the outcome of the tie is decided after the first three matches but the rules permit teams to skip playing the dead fifth rubber. “It was easy win, I understand they are young players, need experience. Today was my last match of the year and I can’t complain. It has been a fantastic year for me,” said Nagal after his win.

Read | Ramkumar, Sumit raze Pakistan on Day One

Saturday’s result means India has won all its matches in a tie for the first time since February, 2014, when it had defeated Chinese Taipei 5-0 in Indore.

India will now face World No. 2 Croatia for the Qualifiers in an away tie to be held on March 6-7. Twenty-four nations will go head-to-head in a bid to win one of 12 qualifying spots for the Davis Cup Finals.

The 12 losing nations will compete in World Group I ties in September, 2020, while the winning nations will join the six nations who have already qualified for the Finals — the 2019 semifinalists Canada, Great Britain, Russia and Spain, and the 2020 wildcards, France and Serbia.

Early lead

Hufaiza and Shoaib began by holding serve in the opening game of the third rubber, but the Indians broke the teenagers in the third game before holding their own for a 3-1 lead. Paes and Jeevan took control of the match with another break of serve in the fifth game. Jeevan served a double fault at 30-15, but the Pakistanis could not put pressure on their rivals, as India zoomed to a 5-1 lead.

Serving to stay in the set, Shoaib was down 0-40, giving India three chances to close the opening set. Paes and Jeevan grabbed the second.

The Indians had a few chances to break their rivals early in the second set but the Pakistani pair held its nerves to save them. There was some fight in the second set, which was locked 3-3.

Paes and Jeevan got a break in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead and the former served out the match in the next.