"Today the fifth set had nothing to do with tennis. It was all about the mind and the heart," said an emotional Leander Paes, after completing a 6-4, 7-6(4), 3-6, 0-6, 6-1 victory over Aqeel Khan that helped India beat Pakistan 3-2 in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group I tie in Mumbai.
The ace player, who has been a beacon for India in the Davis Cup for the past 17 years, went down with cramps in the third set, gifted away the fourth as he waited for the medication to work and roared back after being two break-points down in the first game of the fifth set to set up victory at the Brabourne stadium on Sunday.
"It's been an emotional week for me," said Paes, who became a father on Monday. "I am just happy we came through after putting the hard yards.
"Physically I was drained after the fourth set and my opponent still had a lot in him. I kept playing lobs and drop shots to tire him out a little before the fifth set. But, honestly, it was the team which pulled me through today."
Paes also commended the effort Pakistan had put into the tie and said Khan would have "jumped a notch" if he had been able to pull through and win the tie for Pakistan.
"There has been a lot of talk about individual players and sporting rivalry between the two teams and all that before the tie. But today I have to tip my hat to the Pakistan team. They came here and gave everything they've got.
"Aisam (Qureshi) is an accomplished player and has proven himself at this level. Aqeel could've done it today. But I know how it feels to lose such a close match for your country. He took his chances in the fourth set and I think we created history today at the Brabourne stadium."
Paes said his decision to play the fifth rubber in place of Rohan Bopanna was only because he had the experience of playing under that pressure. Comparing his victory to the one over Goran Ivanesevic in the World Group qualifying round match against Croatia in 1995, in Delhi, Paes rated it as one of his best performances for India.Paes had beaten the big-serving Croat 6-7(4), 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-1.
He was also happy with the fight Prakash Amritraj put up earlier in the day and said that if Amritraj had been able to stretch it into the fifth set it would have been difficult for Aisam Qureshi to last five sets.
"Prakash is a very patriotic guy and he wears his heart on the sleeve. Aisam had started to cramp up badly and there was no way he could've won if the match had gone to five sets."