New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) Veteran Leander Paes and debutant Purav Raja kept alive India's hopes in the Davis Cup with a stunning win the doubles but the host still trail South Korea 1-2 after the second day of the Group I Asia/Oceania first round tie at the R.K. Khanna Tennis Stadium Complex here Saturday.
Cheered by a huge crowd, Paes and Raja beat Lim Yong-Kyu and Nam Ji Sung 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, in an engrossing encounter that lasted nearly two and a half hours.
Stunned by embarrassing defeats in the singles on the first day, the Indian pair, who were playing together for the first time, were determined to pull back things.
They brought out their best game when it mattered the most and raised hopes of a great comeback in the two reverse singles slated for Sunday.
Paes and Raja came out firing all cylinders right from the first game and never allowed the Koreans to dominate. The Indians gelled well and Raja impressed with his serve and volley.
In fact, the first game set the tone of the match. The Koreans were soon up 40-15. But Paes and Raja were in no mood to give up. What followed next was an exciting see-saw battle and in the end the Indians saved three game points to take a 1-0 lead in the first set.
What turned the tide in India's favour was the way they made a comeback in the thrilling second set. Though the Koreans were blanked out in the first game they showed great spirit in levelling the set at 2-2 and then nosed ahead to make it 4-2.
Two breaks down, the Paes and Raja combined well to hit some excellent shots to take a 5-4 lead. But the Koreans refused to give in and momentary lapse in form by the Indians helped them win the next two games and make it 6-5.
But Paes showed his class and hit some fine winners to stretch the set into tie-breakers. The Indians were down in the tie-breaker as well, trailing 0-3. What followed next was pure domination by Paes, who was well supported by Raja. The Indians collected four points to get back into the game at 4-4.
The Koreans, however, were quick enough to make it 5-5, but Paes hit two winners as India went up 2-0 by winning the second set in style.
Paes admitted that it was the second set that was the turning point of the match.
"I think the tie-breaker was the turning point of the match. We were trailing 0-3 and the way we made a comeback is a true reflection of how motivated we are," said Paes.
Stunned by the thrilling return of the Indians, the Koreans were left struggling for answers.
In the third, Paes and Raja showed their true class. They dictated terms as Lim and Nam were thrashed badly. Paes celebrated with his customary chest-bump with Raja, who went ecstatic as he won his maiden Davis Cup encounter.