A good start vital in Davis Cup play

A good start vital in Davis Cup play

Well begun, they say, is half done. That proverb holds true for most things in life, especially in the field of sport where it is easier to set the game up rather than be behind the eight ball from the early phase of an encounter.

Setting the match and taking an early lead is even more important in Davis Cup ties as the competition is spread over three days. While the format allows the trailing team a way back into the match on the second and third days, chasing the game for two consecutive days takes a huge toll on the body.

Given that, it is important for both India and Serbia, who will kick-off their World Group Play-off tie here at the KSLTA from Friday, to get off to a winning start on the first day.
A look at the statistics of all World Group Play-off matches from 2005-2013, reveals that it is imperative for both teams to strive to get at least one point on the board at the end of the first day.

Out of the 72 Davis Cup Play-off matches in this period, 33 ties have seen a team taking a 2-0 lead after the first day. However, only one team has managed to successfully overturn that deficit after three days. That team, incidentally, happens to be India.

They achieved that feat against Brazil in Chennai in 2010. While both Rohan Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman lost their singles matches on the first day, both of them won the reverse singles on the third day after Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi had reduced the deficit on the second day.

In a further statistical quirk, all the matches featuring India have seen scorelines of 2-0 going into the second day. While they trailed Japan (finished 1-4, 2011), Brazil, Sweden (finished 1-3, 2005) and Romania (1-4, 2008), they led South Africa (4-1, 2009).

Paes mentioned the importance of keeping the opposition players out on court for as long as possible over the next three days even if it ends up in a losing cause - which is what both Bopanna as well as Devvarman did against Brazil at Chennai. They lost their opening singles in five sets but won both their reverse singles in straight sets.

But it's fair to say that Serbia might not be as generous as the Brazilians.
They have not featured in this stage of the Davis Cup since 2009 but they have won this round of the competition the last three times they were in this scenario.

Having beaten Australia (2007) and Slovakia (2008) by a similar margin of 4-1, they blanked Uzbekistan 5-0 in 2009. The last time they were relegated from the World Group was against Switzerland in 2006 when they lost 4-1.

The numbers do point towards a Serbian victory but it would be foolish to totally write off India.

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