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Somdev floats, India come alive

sports Updated: Sep 15, 2014 01:17 IST
Sukhwant Basra
Sukhwant Basra
Hindustan Times

Somdev is the God of intoxication. The buzz he left in his wake was palpable. From a team that was staring down the barrel after a 2-0 drubbing on Day 1, the Indian challenge was pushed to a high after Somdev Devvarman pulled off a courageous 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win against Dusan Lajovic.

The adrenaline-charged performance of Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna had pulled one back for India on Saturday and Devvarman’s guts had now pulled us abreast of a team that had threatened to humiliate the hosts given the salvos they fired on Friday. Suddenly hope didn’t just float, it had come alive.

Real character

There are moments in an athlete’s career when he is not on top of his game. These are times when one has to dig deeper than deep and search the recesses of one’s arsenal to figure just what will work when not much is going one’s way. These moments are about character. The man from Tripura once again proved that when it comes to displaying heart, India has found in him a worthy successor to Paes.

Slowing it down

In a cerebral game like tennis, however, plain doggedness doesn’t work. It has to have the salve of strategy for it to go down well. Devvarman took the pace off his strokes, took ample time in between points and then cleverly mixed it all up with daring forays to the net at pivotal points to pull off a spectacular upset against a man ranked as high as 61 in the world. At 153, those computer points didn’t give our man much of a chance.

But cold numbers can never tame the rush of pure passion. And Devvarman played from his heart to give India a fighting chance in this World Group playoff tie against a Serbian team ranked No 2 in the World Cup of tennis.

Lesson for dreamers

Have legs, will win. That’s a simple dictum in modern tennis. Devvarman outlasted his opponent. He ground him down. For all the young kids out there watching this tie, that’s an essential lesson — build your tennis dreams on the bulwark of formidable quadriceps. Or else, stick to gilli danda.

The high lasted for 30 minutes. Yuki Bhambri came out to take on Filip Krajinovic in the pivotal fifth rubber. Three games into the match it began to distinctly deflate as the Serb raced to a 3-0 lead. With Bhambri’s forehand spraying all over, and the first set slipping away 3-6, Indian aspirations were back on the floor.

Not match fit

Out there a young man who is clearly going through a troubled time tried his best. Just that his lack of match fitness after a long break was apparent in his tentativeness and his attempts to talk himself into playing at a different level. This guy is an intense brooding sort and he was clearly not happy with the way he was stroking the ball.

The strange bit was that his coach Aditya Sachdev was sitting in the stands next to your correspondent but could not be on the sidelines as there is some inane policy which aims at keeping personal coaches away during ties. That the Serbs have four trainers — each player has his own, two physios and two coaches should perhaps give our administrators some perspective on just how intense international tennis has become.

Night to ponder

The heavens too didn’t seem to appreciate Bhambri’s pain as they opened up to commiserate. The second set was tied 4-4 when play was suspended for the day. The problem with wet synthetic courts is that they become extremely slick with even a slight sheen of water. They are dangerous to tread on thereafter.

Bhambri has the night to ponder over just how to relax and play his game. The pressure of winning the fifth rubber of this Davis Cup tie must be eating away at his opponent too. The Indian has been given a reprieve by the Gods. One can only pray he uses it to figure his head out. Yuki is Japanese for snow. This Yuki too needs to cool down and play chilled out. Match resumes 12pm Monday.