CHENNAI, Sept 17 (IANS): Brazil took a 2-0 lead against India by winning both the opening singles in the Davis Cup World Group playoffs here Friday.
In the first singles, Thomaz Bellucci, down 2-5 in the fifth set, saved three matches points to beat Rohan Bopanna 6-7 (2), 7-6 (7), 7-5, 4-6, 10-8, in four hours, 28 minutes and then Ricardo Mello made it 2-0 for the visitors by defeating India's No.1 Somdev Devvarman 4-6, 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4 in the second match that lasted four hours, 12 minutes.
While Bopanna, ranked 479, played inspired tennis to stretch the 27th-ranked Bellucci in the first singles, Devvarman (113) squandered a 2-1 advantage and also a break in the fifth set to let Mello (75) off the hook.
The tie began in mid-day heat and ended under lights, and the conditions took a heavy toll on the players, more so on the Indians.
The Brazilians, for all the pre-match talk of being clay court specialists, adapted well to the hardcourts and their superior fitness helped them to last the course unlike the Indians, who seemed to fall away as the matches prolonged.
The Indian pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes face a challenging task Saturday and need to win the doubles rubber to keep Indian hopes alive ahead of Sunday's two reverse singles.
Bopanna, fresh from his impressive US Open stint, showed character as he took World No.27 Bellucci in the opening singles.
The 22-year-old Bellucci had to raise his game. He showed tremendous fighting ability and resilience that were the cornerstones of the success that he achieved after four hours and 28 minutes of absorbing tennis.
For the 30-year-old Bopanna, it was a case of so near yet so far as he blew his chances which, had he taken, would have fetched India a welcome lead.
It turned out to be a battle of wits and wills as the duo slugged it out toe-to-toe as the fortunes ebbed and flowed. If Bopanna served better and played an inspired game, Bellucci often dug deep and overcame fifth set cramps to hang in there while authoring a fairytale victory.
Bopanna after his marathon match said lack of singles play made the difference between winning and losing.
"Obviously, it is very disappointing to lose the match, especially since I was seeing the ball well, but you must give credit to him (Bellucci) for coming up with some fantastic shots," Bopanna said.
"So, it was not as if I wasted the chances in the fifth set when I was leading 5-2. It is just that my lack of singles play made the difference. I guess I wasn�t ready to play for four-and-a-half hours."
Bellucci said his mind was blank in the fifth set. "I was very tired and the mind was not responding. It was a tough match. He (Bopanna) was serving well and hitting very hard," said the top-ranked Brazilian.