Chennai: The top-seeded Indian pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna crashed out of the doubles event of the Chennai Open in the semi-finals after losing to Israel's Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich on Saturday.
The fourth seeds came back from a set down to upset the title favourites in tie-breaker 4-6 ,6-3, 10-8.
But India had something to cheer about as the third-seeded Indo-Serbian pair of Leander Paes and Janko Tipsarevic came back from the brink of defeat to set up a title face-off with the Israeli duo.
In the second semi-final, Paes and Tipsarevic were staring at defeat against second seeds and all-American pair of Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram, down 0-5 in the match tie-breaker, but clawed their way back into the game before winning it 10-7, and the match 6-2, 6-7 (7-1), 10-7.
Earlier, in a match that lasted about 90 minutes, the Indian pair of Bhupathi and Bopanna wasted a break-point in the seventh game of the second set to go 4-3 up, following which Erlich and Ram won three games in succession, including game seven, to wrap up the set 6-3 and take the match into the tie-breaker.
In the tie-breaker, Erlich and Ram took the lead on the fifth point of Bhupathi's serve, when Erlich placed a serve return on the line. They went 6-4 up after Erlich rushed up-field after serving and placed a volley that the Indian pair could not return.
The Israeli pair was stretched in the tie-breaker by Bhupathi and Bopanna, but the latter's weak service returns and backhand returns let the team down.
The 34-year-old Erlich slammed a volley from close to the net to return a Bopanna shot from the baseline to enter the final.
Erlich and Ram have already made the final of the Chennai Open before, losing to the Spanish pair of Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo in the 2004 doubles title clash.
The first set saw both teams hold serve till the fifth game, when Bhupathi and Bopanna finally broke their Israeli opponents after wasting three break-points in the same game.
After allowing Ram and Erlich to come back from being 0-40 down, the Indian duo went 3-2 up after Erlich netted a forehand volley from a forward position. However, the Indian pair wasted an opportunity to go up 4-3 in the second set when Bopanna sent a return wide.
The second set saw Ram and Erlich break Bhupathi and Bopanna twice, in game four and eight.
In game four, the Israeli duo, just like their opponents, allowed them to come back into the game from 0-40 down on Bhupathi's serve. They finally broke them when Bhupathi netted a backhand return to gift them the game just after firing an ace to bring Bopanna and himself level to deuce.
In game eight, the Indian duo was broken on Bhupathi's serve as the Israeli pair went 5-3 up, wrapping up the set in the next game when Bhupathi netted a return off Erlich's serve, making it 6-3 and taking the match into the tie-breaker.
Meanwhile, Paes said he wished it had been easier, but added, "One thing we share is the work ethic. To come back from 0-5 down just shows a lot of heart. I love it how Janko puts it on the line every time he's on court."
Tipsarevic, who was playing his second match of the day after winning his singles semi-final against Go Soeda of Japan, said, "I haven't had this much fun in a long time. I played a tough match today. I am really happy."
After the ouster of Bhupathi and Bopanna, it looked as if the doubles final would be void of Indians. However, the Indo-Serbian pair bounced back in the tie-break on the back of some superlative netplay by Paes and strong returns from Tipsarevic, to which their opponents had no answer.
They wrapped up the match when, with Paes and Tipsarevic on 9-7, Ram and Lipsky let a Tipsarevic screamer from the baseline go past between them.