Rohan Bopanna and Ramkumar Ramanathan blew their chances in the must-win doubles match as India lost the World Group I tie 1-3 to hosts Finland in the Davis Cup, at Espoo on Saturday. (More Tennis News)
Captain Rohit Rajpal changed the doubles combination by pairing Bopanna with Ramkumar instead of left-handed Divij Sharan but they lost the crucial match 6-7(2) 6-7(2) to Henri Kontinen and Harri Heliovaara in one hour and 38 minutes.
Coming into the match down 0-2, Indians needed to win the doubles to stay alive in the tie.
Prajnesh later beat Patrik Niklas-Salminen in the dead fourth rubber 6-3 7-5, while the fifth match was not played.
India will now have to compete in the Play-offs next year to keep their place in the World Group I.
Heliovaara was considered the most vulnerable of all four players on the court but he raised his game by several notches and created a huge impact on the outcome of the match with his fearless approach.
The Indian, on the contrary, fumbled even when they had advantage as they up by a break and had four breakpoints in the eight game of the second set but squandered the chances.
After doing all the hard work, the Indians cracked at crucial junctures.
Bopanna said the fact that the Finnish players have played together at a higher level made a difference to the match.
"We were playing first time together at this level. In close points it did make a difference. But we played a great match, (considering) we were playing for the first time together," said the 40-year-old.
Bopanna also backed the captain's call in changing the combination saying, he and Ramkumar were the right pair for today's match.
He also said that India needs to do well in singles matches if the team has to win ties in Davis Cup.
"Four points are from singles matches, that's where we need to focus. It's been six years that an Indian singles player has beaten a higher-ranked player in Davis Cup.
"We need to have good structure back home, good junior system. Cricket does well because there is a fantastic structure, so every sport needs something like that. You can't do it on your own. The Federation and the government has to come together," he said.
In the opening set, at 3-3, the Indian pair attacked the serve of Heliovaara, going 30-all but the home player served big on the next two points to ensure the set stays on serve.
Eventually the opening set went to tie-breaker. Heliovaara found a stunning service return winner off Bopanna on the second point to get the mini break and also held his serve as Finland took a 4-1 lead.
Then came Ramkumar's double fault and a volley error at the net that gave Finland players five set points. They converted the second when Ramkumar could not return Kontinen's serve.
A forehand winner by Ramkumar at 30-all in the second game of the second set, set up the first break chance for India and they converted when Kontinen could not return Bopanna's backhand.
However, the big-serving Bopanna dropped his own serve in the next game when he made consecutive unforced errors.
Bopanna' serve again came under attack but he managed to hold after going down to deuce points from 40-15 as India led 4-3.
In the next game, the Indians went up 40-0 on Heliovaara's serve but blew away all three breakpoints and later one more to let the rivals hold for a 4-4 scoreline.
Another tie-breaker followed. Helovaara pulled of a sensational forehand winner at 5-2 to get to first match point and it was all over for India when Ramkumar could not return the ball in the next point.