New Delhi:India captain Leander Paes on Sunday defended the decision to play himself and Mahesh Bhuapthi in the reverse singles of the Davis Cup tie against Japan, saying the move was aimed at protecting the injured Rohan Boapanna and Prakash Amritraj.
Both Paes and Bhupathi lost the inconsequential matches and India won the Asia/Oceania Zone tie 3-2 after it had taken an unbeatable 3-0 lead yesterday after winning the first two singles and the doubles to advance to the World Group Playoff in September.
"The boys (Bopanna and Amritraj) had injuries so we decided that we would play the singles," Paes said after the end of the tie at the R K Khanna Stadium here.
The veteran doubles duo were thoroughly outplayed in the respective singles matches with Bhupathi going down to teenage sensation Kei Nishikori 5-7 1-6 and Paes losing to Satoshi Iwabuchi 4-6 6-4 4-6.
Paes said a little bit of match practice ahead of the match could have seen him produce a winning result on Sunday.
"If I had more practice, I could have pulled it off. I needed to take my chances, especially in the second set, but lack of match practice meant I kept playing a safe game," Paes said.
Bhupathi, who does not even practice singles anymore, said he did not have the energy left to fight after losing the opening set.
"It was fun to go out there and play but in the second set I was tired and it showed," he said.
Paes said he was already looking ahead to the world group playoff in September.
"I am glad that under my captaincy we could progress to the playoff. I commend my team for their fabulous show. I have to commend Mahesh especially for coming out today and completing a match," he said.
Bopanna and Amrtraj, meanwhile, said their niggles needed a week's break to heal. While Bopanna is recovering from a knee inflammation, Amritraj is nursing a wrist injury.
"My wrist felt really bad after Friday's match and by yesterday it was hurting a lot. So I had to pull out from today's match," explained Amritraj.
Bopanna said he would have taken a chance with his knee had India been in a crunch situation.
"At 2-1, I would have probably played the match but I could sit out as the tie was already sealed," he said.
The Japanese were glad to be going home on a winning note after the disappointments of the past two days.
"I have to take along some good news otherwise I cannot go home. A 3-2 is lot better than 5-0," quipped their non-playing skipper Eiji Takeuchi.
"If we had won any of the two matches on Friday. May be the result would have been different," he added.