Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna kept India's hopes alive, and Somdev Devvarman then raised those hopes with a brilliant performance. But then came Yuki Bhambri, with a forehand that might as well not have been there and a game that went to pieces right from serve one on Monday, to crush all of those hopes in emphatic style.
The India vs Serbia Davis Cup World Group playoff ended 3-2 in the European side's favour after Filip Krajinovic cruised, and that is an understatement, to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Bhambri in two hours and six minutes, with the Indian failing to show up on Monday afternoon, unable to keep the Serbian on court in the Bangalore heat long enough to cause a problem.
The final match of the tie was postponed to Monday after rain decided to disrupt proceedings, and all the wet weather did was delay the inevitable. With the way Bhambri was playing and the power that Krajinovic, a real shot-maker, possessed, there only looked like being one result, and, unfortunately for India, that proved to be the case as the Serbian walked all over the Indian.
Krajinovic did not even need to produce those big shots which were so evident in his first match against Somdev on Friday, with Bhambri hitting unforced errors with more regularity than you would a punching bag.
The forehand was Bhambri's bane in his first match against Dusan Lajovic, with that particular stroke taking a long flight away to Timbuktu on Friday. And for the reverse singles encounter against Krajinovic, the forehand decided to go a little farther away, taking another flight and a couple of snow sleds to the North Pole.
With Bhambri self-destructing – he made 66 unforced errors in a three-set match -- all Krajinovic had to do was put the ball on the court and allow those unforced errors to flow from the Indian, and just like that from 4-4 in the second set, a break was garnered by the Serbian in the first game of the day, with a hold, a relatively difficult one, it must be said, in the tenth game giving him the second set.
Krajinovic broke Bhambri in the first game of the third set, and with that the writing was pretty much on the wall. There were a couple of chances here and there for Bhambri to claw his way back, but Krajinovic produced those big booming serves when under pressure to keep control.
The third set went to 5-4 in favour of the Serbian, with Krajinovic serving for the match and the tie, and there was a hiccup or two as the nerves showed a little with a double fault to give Bhambri the slightest of openings.
Sensing a comeback, Bhambri produced a brilliant volley winner to take it to 0-30, before it went to 15-40. However, those big serves came to the fore again as Krajinovic closed out the match at the second time of asking to break Indian hearts.
It is back to the Asia/Oceania Group 1 for India, while Serbia remain in the elite World Group. At least, India made them sweat.