Thursday, February 23, 2017

Davis Cup: Ramnathan, Bhambri win reverse singles as India overcome New Zealand

India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan is lifted by his teammates after he won his reverse singles match against NZ’s Finn Tearney in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania clash in Pune yesterday. Pic/PTI

Pune: India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan overcame a wobble in the first set to power past Finn Tearney 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 to help the hosts clinch a point and the tie against New Zealand 3-1 in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Round 1 tie at the Balewadi Tennis Stadium yesterday.

Yuki Bhambri then won the dead fifth rubber against Jose Statham, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 in an hour and 55 minutes, to ensure the final scoreline read 4-1 in favour of the hosts.

The Indians needed at least a point yesterday as the Kiwi team of Michael Venus and Artem Sitak had upstaged Indian veteran Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan in the doubles rubber on Saturday.

The first set was a battle of attrition. Ramkumar had to fight for every point. But once he secured the break, he clinched the set.

Ramkumar who is ranked 228, served big, banging down 12 aces. In the second set, he raced through, dropping just one game. He used his forehand to good effect and played aggressive tennis.

India Davis Cup captain Anand Amritraj (right) congratulates Yuki Bhambri after he won his reverse singles match 7-5, 3-6,  6-4 against New Zealand’s Jose Staham in Pune yesterday

In the third set, it was all Ramanathan. He dominated without dropping a game. Whether it was with his service, from the baseline or net, he totally dictated play.

India will now play Uzbekistan in the second round at home in April. It will be a daunting task as the Uzbeks have in their ranks Denis Istomin, who ousted Novak Djokovic in the recent Australian Open in Melbourne.

“The serve helped me a lot. Everyone pumped me up for this rubber. I am happy I didn’t let down my country,” said an ecstatic Ramkumar.

“Yes, there was plenty of pressure in the first set. Finn was playing good tennis. I just went for my shots and won the set,” added the Tamil Nadu player. Captain Anand Amritraj was cock-a-hoop after the victory. “The boys played superb tennis. I am very proud of them.”

Reflecting on his tenure as Davis Cup captain, Amritraj said: “It’s been three and a half years. The whole idea was to bring peace and harmony in the camp. During that time, we reached the World Group playoffs thrice, losing to very strong teams — Serbia, Czech Republic and Spain. I am very proud of our achievements.”

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