Spunky Somdev shores up India

Hosts level scores 2-2 after Devvarman's win over Lajovic in the first reverse singles match

Spunky Somdev shores up India

As if taking a cue from his senior team-mates Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna who scripted splendid come-from-behind five-set win in the doubles match on Saturday, Somdev Devvarman enacted a similar tale to keep India in the hunt for a place in the Davis Cup World Group.

After losing the first set without much of a fight, Somdev rallied from the brink to register a 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over the Serbian top seed Dusan Lajovic in the first reverse singles of their World Group play-off here on Sunday at the KSLTA stadium. The win helped India level the tie at 2-2 while the second reverse singles was stopped due to rain with Yuki Bhambri trailing Filip Krajinovic 3-6, 4-4.
The opening set was a breezy affair where Somdev was taken apart by Lajovic in merciless manner. His ground strokes scorched the court while his serves singed Somdev’s racquet. The Serbian’s dominance could be judged from the fact that Somdev managed to win just one point off his opponent’s serve from the third game onwards.

Lajovic, ranked 61 in the world to Somdev’s 144, appeared set for another authoritative show when he stretched the home favourite to deuce in the first and third games of the second set on Somdev’s serve and served out the second and fourth at love.

The first signs of Somdev’s resolve to fight back came in the fifth game, when down 15-40, he saved both break points before unleashing a forehand winner on advantage to stay level in the set. The 29-year-old had a break point in the next game but Lajovic managed to retain serve. The set went with serve till the ninth game before Somdev, serving for the set at 5-4, stepped on the gas. The top-ranked Indian came up with a scorching down-the-line forehand winner to earn a break point before Lajovic hit a forehand out that brought the crowd to its feet.
Egged on by his flag-waving team-mates by the courtside and cheered on by a boisterous crowd that had the chair umpire make repeated announcements to stay calm during the play, Somdev found his range and rhythm. He retrieved almost everything that was thrown at him and held his nerve during crunch situations.   
Somdev took an early 2-0 lead in the third set despite Lajovic, who had taken a medical time-out before the start of the set, holding a game point in the second; a backhand return that nestled in the net handing the Indian the break. With a chance to go 5-2 up, Somdev let go of the opportunity with two forehand errors as Lajovic levelled the scores by holding the eighth game. The setback appeared to have affected Somdev’s composure as three unforced errors helped Lajovic broke his rival at 15-40 in the ninth game and then served out the set without much fuss to take a 2-1 lead.   
Somdev ran up a 3-1 lead in the fourth, breaking Lajovic in the fourth game at love. However, both the players traded breaks for the next five games before Somdev, who began the ninth game with an ace, won it with a brilliantly executed drop volley to take the match to the decider. It was an exhilarating stuff where fortunes swung wildly in each game, bringing the spectators to the edge of their seats.

By the time the match rolled into the final set, Lajovic was progressively looking tired while Somdev was feeding off the energy from a 5000-strong crowd.
“When 5000 people cheer for you, it gives you wings,” remarked Lajovic after his loss. “I was playing well until the second set. In the third, I started tiring, I don’t know why and I could not serve well again till the end of the match.”

Lajovic’s serve completely deserted him as he committed four double faults in the fifth set. Crucially, his effective second serve came a cropper as he could win just two points against Somdev’s 10. The Indian went up 2-1 when Lajovic’s first double fault on deuce gave him a break point. The 24-year-old followed it up with a backhand error to surrender the game. The set moved on serves till the sixth game before Somdev broke Lajovic to surge to a 5-2 lead. It wasn’t long before Somdev, who produced two back-to-back forehand winners in the eighth game, sealed the game, set and match.

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