Indians make perfect start

Tennis Davis Cup : Yuki, Ramkumar score facile wins as hosts take 2-0 lead over New Zealand

Indians make perfect start

India kept their favourites tag intact with Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan dominating their singles matches and putting the hosts in a position of strength with a 2-0 lead over New Zealand in the Asia Oceania Group I tie at the Balewadi Sports Complex on Friday.

On the bouncy courts, Yuki helped India log the first point with a comfortable 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Finn Tearney in little over two hours. Ramkumar followed it up with a solid  6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory, under lights, over New Zealand’s most experienced Davis Cupper Jose Statham.

Ramkumar, who is fresh from his training stint at the Emilio Sanchez Tennis Academy, Florida, kept a decent turnout entertained with his bullet serves, measured repeatedly over 200 kmph. The Indian popped aces at will, 15 in total, didn’t lose his serve even once and unleashed a flurry of rasping groundstrokes backed by a tight defence to beat Statham in one hour and 53 minutes.

“I gained a lot from my stint in Florida. My teammates told me to focus on keeping the first serves in and play attacking. It also helped that we came early,” Ramkumar said.

Ramkumar opened up a 4-1 lead in the first set before closing it out with an ace. Against the attacking tennis of Indian, Statham found the going tough. He double- faulted on break-point to give a 4-3 lead to Ramkumar in the second set and the Indian jumped to a 2-0 lead with another ace.

By the third set, the New Zealander’s errors had mounted and once he muffed up his forehand in the fifth game, the contest was more or less settled. Ramkumar sprinted to a commanding victory, and got the crowd on its feet, applauding his performance.

In contrast, Yuki, wearing a protective band around his right elbow, played with varying intensity, but was rarely challenged. The 24-year-old took a bit of time to adjust to the heavy top-spin of Tearney, before finding a way past. Thereafter, it was more about keeping control of the match, which Yuki did despite the flowing errors. On a medium-paced court, he sprayed his forehand around but he also produced some fluent winners, especially cross-court.

Tearney, with a compact game, didn’t have enough weapons to put Yuki under pressure. The two struggled to hold serves during the first six games of the opening set before Yuki pulled himself together. He made a decisive crack in Treaney’s serve following a couple of backhand errors from the Kiwi in the seventh game and soon served out the set with a fluent forehand.

The Indian then overhauled a 0-2 deficit in the second set with breaks in the third and fifth games and by that time, the New Zealander had begun to concede ground. The third set played out a similar reel and Yuki wrapped up the set and the match with striking ease.

It is now over to the doyen of Indian tennis Leander Paes, who with Vishnu Vardhan would take the court on Saturday against Michael Venus and Artem Sitak in doubles, for the another Davis Cup record.

Results: India lead New Zealand 2-0 (Yuki Bhambri bt Finn Tearney 6-4, 6-4, 6-3; Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Jose Statham 6-3, 6-4, 6-4).

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