Chennai: Rohan Bopanna let slip a famous win out of his hands as he squandered three match points to lose the marathon first singles to world number 27 Thomaz Bellucci on the opening day of the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie, here on Friday.
Coming into the tie after his amazing run at the US Open, Bopanna almost had the match in his pocket but nerves got the better of him as he lost 7-6 (2) 6-7 (7) 5-7 6-4 10-8 after slogging for four-and-a-half hours.
With Bopanna’s defeat, India have conceded a 1-0 lead and now Somdev Devvarman will have to win the second singles against Ricardo Melo to save the day for the hosts.
Bellucci, who struggled with his first serve throughout, braved cramps and turned it around amazingly for Brazil, justifying his top-30 rank and also saving himself from an embarrassing defeat against a player, who is ranked 479.
With a comfortable 5-2 lead in the final set, Bopanna had three match points in game eight but squandered all as the big moment overwhelmed him.
Bopanna was egged on by his teammates and little crowd in attendance but never recovered from the setback and dropped his serve in the next game.
His confidence, with which he dominated his superior ranked early on, gradually waned away and another break of serve in the 17th game ended all his hopes.
Before that Bopanna was comfortably placed to win the second set tie-break as he was up 5-2 but allowed Bellucci to make a comeback and lost the set.
At the start, Bopanna used his lethal serve and big strokes quite effectively and was also aided by some erratic shot-making by lean-built Bellucci.
Left-handed Bellucci was erratic with his serve and paid a big price, as it had a bearing on the outcome of the first set.
Bopanna, mostly playing from the baseline and approaching the net occasionally, did not concede much points on his serve which was too hot to handle for the Brazilian.
Bopanna created two break opportunities in the first set -- second and sixth games -- but could not convert any as he tried too hard, looking over-anxious on those big points.
Bellucci got into the groove gradually but there was hardly a long rally as both the players fetched points with their serve game.
With no player able to garner a break, the first set was stretched to a tie break in which the Indian shot to a comfortable 5-1 lead when Bellucci committed two double faults. Those were unpardonable errors and Bopanna latched on the opportunity to take lead.
The second set could not have started in a better way for Bopanna as he cashed in on the second breakpoint to get the first break of the match.
However, a string of unforced errors by Bopanna gave Bellucci a chance to break back and the Brazilian accepted the offer gleefully.
Bopanna, down 4-5, saved a set-point in the 10th game but failed to convert any of the three chances in the next game, forcing another tie-break to break the deadlock.
It was a seesaw tie-break as Bopanna was all over Bellucci with a comfortable 5-2 lead but the Brazilian turned it around amazingly by saving three set points and went on to win it, bringing the match to level terms.
Having made a comeback, Bellucci grew in confidence and got a mini-break by breaking Bopanna in the first game of the third set and held his serve in the next.
Two silly mistakes almost cost Belluci the set when he failed to put ball in an open court on his first set-point and then fumbled on an attempted drop shot.
Another unforced error handed Bopanna the crucial break, making the scoreline 5-5 but the Indian dropped the next game to trail again.
Having escaped the turnaround, Bellucci wrapped up the set on his serve to take a 2-1 lead.
Another feeble attempt by Bellucci to play a drop shot handed Bopanna all important breakpoint in the 10th game in the fourth set and the Indian hit a stunning backhand winner to make it two-set all.
Bopanna rode on a double break to create a 4-1 lead in the decisive set but still ended on the wrong side of the result.