Gritty India call the shots

Gritty India call the shots

Gritty India call the shots

The clouds hung over the venue the whole day, but the expected rain never showed up. In its absence, heat and humidity rose to menacing levels and played a role in creating an unusual opening day in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group 1 tie. 

While the Indians survived, with Saketh Myneni displaying admirable grit amidst cramps, to put the hosts 2-0 up, the visiting South Korea couldn’t finish either of their matches. Both their singles players had to be lifted out of the grasscourts of Chandigarh Club on Friday.

Incidentally, the Koreans also matched their timing of withdrawal; it was when the Indians were serving out for the match. Young Ramkumar Ramanathan, playing his debut tie, put aside nerves to overcome the Korea’s top singles player Seong Chan Hong. He was leading 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-5 (15-15) when Hong, holding his right thigh, retired hurt.

Myneni, who had begun brightly against Yong-Kyu Lim, had begun to hobble by the fourth set. Despite medical timeout and toilet breaks, he collapsed on the ground in pain when 3-5 down and while serving at 30-40.

With no further medical timeout allowed, it resulted in the Korean getting the point and the set. To the surprise of the sparse gathering, Saketh decided to continue and with loads of help from Lim, whose body too had begun to cramp, was serving for the match at 5-2. However, at 30-30, Lim laid flat on the ground, and the match was awarded to India. After a protracted attention from the Indian Davis Cup staff and even senior players, Lim eventually had to be stretchered out. Myneni, after winning his first five-set rubber, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 5-2, tossed his shirt, punched the air and was hoisted by his team-mates in acknowledgement of his courageous showing.

“I wanted to finish it off in three sets. It was very humid but never I thought of giving up,” Myneni.

Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna will now look to seal the tie in the keenly awaited doubles match on Saturday.

The Koreans, who had claimed to have little experience on grass, turned out to be no pushovers. Ramkumar was slow and a little tight to begin with but managed to run away with the opening set after breaking Hong in the seventh game with a brilliant forehand winner. His intensity dropped in the second, with errors and double faults creeping in, and Hong needed mere 25 minutes to level.

A toilet break before the third set, with Rohan Bopanna in toe, helped. Stroking with confidence, constantly fisting and backing himself, Ramkumar served out the third set with ease. Both the players struggled to hold their serve in the fourth before Ramkumar broke Hong in the 11th game, when the Korean’s lob sailed long. “I realised in Davis Cup, one needs to play beyond tennis. It is a lot more about heart,” admitted Ramkumar.

His compatriot showed that in plenty in the second singles. Myneni and Lim, both strong servers, raised the level in the second singles. They stroked with conviction, the backhand slices and volleys flowing effortlessly from their racquet.

Myneni breezed away with the opening set but Lim fought back in the second. Myneni took the third set, despite a tough fight from Lim. It was in the fourth set when the drama intensified with both players taking medical timeouts and toilet breaks. With a tottering Myneni falling down, the set went to the fifth. It didn’t make for great tennis.

The two players were barely able to cover the ground, their returns limp and insipid. Yet they evoked awe by stubbornly holding on. Perhaps, sports thrive on such spirit.
DH News Service

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