Ramanathan, Yuki prove too good for Kiwis

Dominant India trounce visitors 4-1

Ramanathan, Yuki prove too good for Kiwis

In front of a baying home crowd, rapidly filling the stands on a Sunday afternoon, India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan fought mental demons and windy conditions to defeat an errant Finn Tearney 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 to clinch the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group 1 tie against New Zealand at the Balewadi Sports Complex.

India, who led 2-1 going into the final day, were just a win away from clinching the tie. Ramkumar ensured the task was completed in the first reverse singles itself. His victory, coming in two hours, gave India an unbeatable 3-1 lead and reduced the dead fifth rubber to the best of three sets. Yuki Bhambri, however, had to stave off a stiff challenge from an experienced Jose Statham to dig out 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 victory and swell the final scoreline to 4-1 for the hosts.

India now meet Uzbekistan, who beat Korea 3-1, in the next round of Asia-Oceania Group 1 for place in World Group play-off. The tie, scheduled from April 7-9, will be another home affair for India.

Finn, who was beaten by Yuki in straight sets in the opening singles, started off brightly. He had Ramkumar on the edge in the first set with his attacking game.

The Kiwi liberally rushed to the net, sending down crisp volleys and reflex returns past the Indian. Ramkumar, though, bailed himself out each time with his gigantic serves, acing 12 times. The Indian saved all the five break points, four of which came in the first set. Finn, on the other hand, made a barrage of double faults, nine in the opening set and 16 in total add to his troubles.

Heavy spin

Ramkumar, however, struggled to make the opportunities count at the start. The heavy spin in Finn’s groundstrokes and tricky conditions eked out errors from him. The set went on serve till the 11th game before an erratic Finn dropped his serve immediately, double faulting thrice, to give away the opening set.

It provided Ramkumar the much needed breather. Once he wriggled out of the tight third game of the second set, the Indian began to firm his control over the proceedings. With Finn sinking into a stream of errors, Ramkumar quickened his march to victory. In fact, Finn could hold just the opening game of the second set.

After that, Ramkumar took out 11 games on trot to win the the remaining two sets and with it the contest. The Indian too had his problems with double faults, committing nine in total, but backed himself.

Once the Finn’s returned sailed long in the final game, Ramkumar’s cheering team-mates on the sidelines rushed by his side. The team took turns, starting with Ramkumar, and captain Anand Amritraj, featuring in his last tie, in flinging each other in celebratory gesture.

Amritraj, carrying the national flag, led the players for a victory lap in the backdrop of screaming fans and blaring music. Ramkumar, the hero of the tie, took the decibel levels a notch higher by whacking the tennis balls into the stands.

The Indian team, the way they had done in tie against South Korea in Chandigarh, shook a leg to a Marathi song, inviting whistles from the crowd and colourful firecrackers lightening up the evening sky to wrap up their victorious campaign.

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