India whitewash New Zealand

Yuki Bhambri, Sanam win dead singles rubbers as hosts drub hapless Kiwis 5-0

India whitewash New Zealand

Yuki Bhambri and Sanam Singh scored contrasting victories for India in the dead singles rubbers to complete a 5-0 whitewash of New Zealand in the Davis Cup Group 1 Asia-Oceania relegation play-off tie at the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association (CLTA) on Sunday.

It was also the first time since 2005 that India rustled up a 5-0 victory. The last time India notched up a 5-0 victory was against Uzbekistan on the grasscourts of Kolkata.
Having already taken an unassailable lead on Saturday, Yuki Bhambri, who gave India their first win on Friday, returned to play the first reverse singles, reduced to best of three-sets, against New Zealand’s No 1 Jose Statham. Yuki, however, was erratic before dugging in to pull off a 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5) victory. 

But Sanam, playing his first match in the tie in front of his home crowd, was a delight to watch. His groundstrokes were fluent and showed excellent court craft to glide to a 6-4, 6-1 victory against Artem Sitak. It was also the first straight-set victory in the tie. Yuki, who was stretched to a five-setter in the opening singles, looked a tad nervous. He was good in patches but for most part struggled with the length of his strokes and movement. His serve, too, lacked consistency.

Statham, looking solid, cashed in on. He broke Yuki in fifth and seventh games to run away with the first set. Yuki drew parity when he served out the second set; a forehand down the line bringing the break in the 12th game.

In the decider, the 20-year old Indian trailed 2-4 but broke back to level scores. He held a match point at 6-5 but muffed it and the set spilled into the tie-breaker.  He led 5-0 in the tie-breaker but committed too many errors to tie the score at 5-5 before sealing the match with a forehand winner.

With India leading 4-0, Sanam carried the momentum into the final match. He fearlessly went for the lines and often caught Sitak off guard with his deft touches at net.

Sanam broke Sitak in the fifth game of the match but squandered the advantage.  He, however, recovered to take a 5-3 lead before serving out the set in the 10th game. He went rampant in the second set.  Sitak could do little but be a mere bystander and double-faulted at the match point to give the local boy his first victory in a Davis Cup match.

India now awaits the draw for their next opponents in the Asia-Oceania Group 1 that will be announced on September 19.  Till then, this young side can bask in the glory of their achievement.

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