Indians draw first blood

Tennis Davis Cup: Ramkumar, Prajnesh clinch wins to hand hosts 2-0 lead against Uzbekistan

Indians draw first blood
India’s young guns got their Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I round two tie off to a thumping start, taking a commanding 2-0 lead over an equally inexperienced Uzbekistan here on Friday.

Premier singles player Ramkumar Ramanathan shrugged off some ordinary tennis to beat an injured Temur Ismailov 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 before southpaw Prajnesh Gunneswaran upped the tempo with a stylish and an authoritative display to down Sanjar Fayziev 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the KSLTA courts.

Ismailov, playing in just his fourth Davis Cup match, kick-started the opening rubber with a bang as he served out without dropping a point. Ramkumar, leading the country's charge in the absence of Yuki Bhambri, responded in kind by blasting through the game within the blink of an eye.

That was probably the only moment in the match when both the players looked at their best in a contest littered with errors and poor shot-making. While Ramkumar struggled with his serves, managing to get just 54% of the first serves in and committing a whopping 14 double faults, Ismailov, battling cramps in the third set, hardly got his directions right barring the second set.

Ramkumar, often engaging the crowd to get his adrenaline going in sapping conditions, breezed through the opening set despite dishing out an ordinary affair. Banking largely on his serve which clicked in the opener before coming apart later, Ramkumar struggled with his backhands. Operating predominantly through his forehands, he either sliced or scooped whenever the ball fell to his weaker side.

Ismailov spotted the chink in Ramkumar’s armoury and exploited it very well in the second set. He kept hitting the ball to Ramkumar’s backhand and the Indian, in trying to run around and play off the forehand, started to lose steam which eventually affected his serving as well.

Ramkumar, knowing his opponent had gotten a measure of him, lost serve for the first time in the match when he double-faulted three times in the eighth game of the second set as Ismailov levelled proceedings at 4-4. Under pressure, Ramkumar then double-faulted a shocking four times in the 12th game to allow Ismailov take the set and even things up.

Ramkumar then recomposed himself and started to attack a bit more, trying to offset Ismailov’s ploy in the the third set. Fortune too swung Ramkumar’s way as Ismailov began to cramp and even took a medical time-out after the third game.

With Ismailvov struggling to even move, things were served on platter to Ramkumar. But distracted by his opponent’s injury, Ramkumar kept committing some silly errors before regaining his composure in the nick of time to take take set and open a 2-1 lead.

Ismailov then played high-risk tennis in the fourth set but Ramkumar managed to cling on and got the vital break in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead. He then brought up his first match point with a big serve down the ‘T’ before being consumed by nerves to commit another three double faults. This time, however, he held his composure amidst vociferous chants to script a scrappy victory.

Prajnesh, though, oozed confidence against Fayziev. Easy on the eye and serving brilliantly, he dished out some top quality stuff to leave India just one win away from sealing the deal.

Results:
India lead Uzbekistan 2-0 (Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Temur Ismailov 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5; Prajnesh Gunneswaran bt Sanjar Fayziev 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4).

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