Much of the attention in the last week of September 1987 was centered on the Reliance Cup which was due to kick off in the subcontinent on October 8. By this time, Boost had released its 'Face-My-Pace' contest with a bevy of prizes for the one answering 6 multiple-choice questions and correctly predicting the winner of the tournament. The September 30th opening ceremony had PM Rajiv Gandhi being introduced to the teams before the events began. The day was rounded off with an exhibition day-night game between the co-hosts in which India pulled off an upset win.
The cricket fever had by then completed eclipsed all other events and the high flying Indian tennis team was expected to get its wings clipped in Australia. For this was after all the same Australian team that had, barely 9 months ago anchored by Pat Cash's heroics, comprehensively outgunned Stefan Edberg in both singles and doubles to wrest the Davis Cup from the Swedes. Cash went on to triumph at Wimbledon, while Wally Masur knocked out Becker at the Australian Open. Boris' impeccable 19-0 record at Wimbledon was then breached by Aussie Peter Doohan who had till then been a relative unknown("Doohan makes Becker bite the dust", the Hindu headline blared on June 26 1987) . In that backdrop, India's visit to Sydney was merely viewed as an unavoidable junket trip.
The first bombshell was dropped on the eve of the tie by Chennai Doordarshan news announcing Cash's withdrawal due to injury. The possibility of an upset promptly revived a lot of interest in the tie, what with the Argentina upset
still fresh in memory. Thus it was with an air of expectation that viewers woke up for the 6:30 AM live telecast that Gandhi Jayanthi Friday.
The fact that the tie was played on grass did not brighten India's chances much, given that the Aussie team had the right players on that surface. Still India started on the right foot with 34th ranked Ramesh expectedly beating John Fitzgerald 6-1 6-2 3-6 8-6. The December of 1986 DD had telecast the highlights of the Seiko Open final where Krishnan had beaten Anders Gomez for the second of his ATP titles that year. The Indian was then at the peak of his prowess and the victory came on expected lines.
But when the 30th ranked Masur raced away with the first set 6-1 against the ageing 261st ranked Amritraj, the Aussies seemed to be back in the contest. What followed next was a nerve-wracking 3 sets as the Indian captain played one of the finest no-nonsense tennis of his career to win(6-3 12-10 6-4). The scoreline stood at an incredible 2-0 for India after Day 1.
A strong and raucous Aussie crowd turned up for the holiday Saturday as Cash made himself available to raise their flagging fortunes. Anand Amritraj and Vasudevan represented India while the home side had Peter Doohan partnering the Wimbledon champ. The dull and listless Anand Amritraj could do little in the company of Vasu, a claycourter struggling to find his feet having been thrust out of nowhere into the heat of battle. Cash and Doohan swiftly pounded the Indians in straight sets, the latter showing why he was too good for Becker at Wimbledon by closing out the match with 3 scorching aces.
Then began the do-or-die Sunday, October 4 1987. India's hopes of a Vijay(rejuvenated by skipping the doubles) recreating his magic against Jaite quickly vanished as an inspired Fitzgerald brought to the fore the Aussie grit of yore, playing faultlessly to outplay the Indian 7-5 6-3 6-3 before a crowd that was by then beginning to scent an improbable come-from-behind victory.
Onto the decider. Masur continued to ride on that momentum of six successive sets for the Aussies, running up a 4-1 lead. Krishnan stuck to his habit of infuriating us by losing his serve, only to break in return!! A hard fought 8-6 in the first set was the result but Masur hit back to lead 4-1 again in the second.
And as usual, Doordarshan let us down at this stage, leaving us midway in the lurch. The 2nd half of the match was denied to us but the frustration was quickly forgotten when an hour later, DD interrupted the morning serials to announce that the No.1 tennis player among the world's vegetarians had taken the next two sets with a 6-4 scoreline. History had been made, the favorites had been dethroned and unfancied India had made it to the Davis Cup finals for the first time since 1974. A wag went to town declaring how Tamil Nadu had sent the defending champions packing!