Serbia soar to 2-0 advantage over India

WAR CRY: France's Benoit Paire celebrates after winning his match against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta. REUTERS

Kraljevo (Serbia): Ramkumar Ramanathan gave his all before losing while Prajnesh Gunneswaran squandered chances galore as India trailed Serbia 0-2 in the World Group play-off tie here on Friday.

Ramkumar battled hard but it was not enough to stop Laslo Djere from winning his first Davis Cup match. The Indian lost 6-3, 4-6, 6-7(2), 2-6 after intense three hour and 11 minutes on the indoor clay courts at Kraljevo Sports Venue.

Djere, ranked 86, had lost both his Davis Cup matches before clashing with Ramkumar, ranked 135.

The onus to bring India back was on Prajnesh but the left-hander frittered away many break opportunities to lose 4-6, 3-6, 4-6 to number 56 Dusan Lajovic in one hour and 57 minutes. Prajnesh had plenty of chances but did not take those. He had nine break points but converted only two.

For the tie to stay alive, Rohan Bopanna and N Sriram Balaji must defeat Nikola Milojevic and Danilo Petrovic in the doubles rubber on Saturday.

In the absence of reigning US Open Champion Novak Djokovic and injured Filip Krajinovic, the Indian players were expected to win at least one rubber on the opening day.

Ramkumar pulled away in the opening set with a break of serve in the sixth game. The Indian was solid with his returns from the baseline while Djere faltered on the second breakpoint, sending a forehand return long.

An easy hold in the next put Ramkumar ahead 5-2. He served out the set in the ninth game when Djere hit a backhand wide from an advantageous position.

Djere curtailed his errors, hardly lost points on his serve and led 3-2. He went from strength to strength from then on while Ramkumar made mistakes at crucial points to lose momentum. 

Djere cashed in on it to emerge victorious and Lajovic maintained the advantage in the second singles.

France ahead

Benoit Paire made a remarkable Davis Cup debut for France, outplaying an injured Pablo Carreno-Busta 7-5 6-1 6-0 in the opening rubber of the World Group semifinal tie against Spain.

Lucas Pouille then dug deep to deny Roberto Bautista-Agut in five sets to give France both points.  The French number one fought back from losing the first set to see off the Spaniard 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 at Lille’s Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

Paire had never been selected for his country in the ‘World Cup of tennis’ before, admitting himself that his explosive, erratic performances on court meant he could previously never properly be trusted.

Croatia in control

Croatia raced to a commanding 2-0 lead over the United States on the opening day of their semifinal in Zadar.

In the first rubber Borna Coric, world number 18, justified his favourite’s tag and defeated Steve Johnson 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.

Croatia’s top player and world number six Marin Cilic then defeated Frances Tiafoe, a Davis Cup debutant 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) to leave the hosts on the brink of the final, with France the likely rival.

Agencies

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Serbia soar to 2-0 advantage over India

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