TOKYO: Davis Cup debutant Vishnu Vardhan felt he played some of his best tennis against World No. 55 Kei Nishikori and forced the Japan's top player to raise his game in the first reverse singles of the World Group playoff on Sunday.
Though Vardhan could not save the tie for India, they lost 1-4, his approach and the fight he put up against Nishikori came in for praise from his teammates as well Japan's coach Eiji Takeuchi.
The 24-year-old, who had to step in for injured India No.1 Somdev Devvarman, came up with solid serves and stretched Nishikori in the first set before losing 5-7, 3-6, 3-6 in over two hours.
"I thought I played some of the best tennis of my life today," Vardhan said. "It was awesome to be a part of this Davis Cup team."
"I thought I really pushed Nishikori to play better out there."
Doubles exponent Mahesh Bhupathi said Vardhan played a "great" match.
"India threw Vishnu into the deep end today and he played a great match. Made us all on the bench real proud!!," Bhupathi tweeted.
Teammate Rohan Bopanna, who conceded the dead fifth rubber against Go Soeda because of a toe blister, said Vardhan came up with a courageous performance on debut.
"Great effort shown by @vishnu_vardhan9 today in the 4th rubber, I think he played with lot of courage & attitude in his Debut. Well done," Bopanna wrote on his twitter account.
Takeuchi said Vardhan put up a good fight despite being lower-ranked.
"His ranking is much lower than Kei's, but he put up a good fight," Takeuchi said. "He showed some nice skills and a strong serve early in the match."
The loss relegated India to Asia-Oceania Group I while Japan entered the top tier of the tournament for the first time since 1985.
Bhupathi congratulated Japan but said India will be back in the elite Group.
"Well done Japan. World group after 26 years.. Must feel good :)... Well be back!!!" he tweeted.