India’s buildup to the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 match against New Zealand was tumultuous. With off-court controversies hogging limelight, the team was always under pressure.
However at the end of the first day, non-playing captain Anand Amritraj was happy that his boys were in the news for all the good reasons as Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan outclassed their opponents to give India a 2-0 lead.
“Considering the controversies over the last one and half months, I am happy with the way things have gone today. Really happy with the way both Yuki and Ramkumar executed the plan,” said Amritraj.
The India captain had expected the matches to be tougher and closer than they eventually turned out to be.
“I had expected the second match (Ramkumar vs Jose Statham) to go into five sets as Statham is a very experienced player. But Ram served superbly, had his forehand going well and won all the big points. Really happy that my players ended the day without getting exhausted,” Amritraj said.
While Bhambri, coming back from an injury-enforced layoff, had done well at the Chennai Open recently, Ramkumar was not in a very good frame of mind.
However, just before the tie against New Zealand, Ramkumar trained with Emilio Sanchez, a former captain of the Spanish Davis Cup team, at his Sanchez-Casal Academy for 15 days. The stint seemed to have worked well for him.
“I was not happy with my game when I lost to Yuki in the Chennai Open. But I am getting back to where I want to be. The stint with Emilio Sanchez really helped me and I am happy with my fitness and overall game today,” said Ramkumar.
Indeed it seems he is getting back to his best as he played all the big points superbly. He served big, sending down 15 aces and though he had eight doubles faults too, none of them came at crucial moments. His opponent Statham made a lot of unforced errors, especially on key points.
Amritraj is looking forward to winning Saturday’s doubles for an unassailable 3-0 lead. Vishnu Vardhan and Leander Paes, who is going for a record 43rd doubles win in Davis Cup, will take on Artem Sitak and Michael Venus.
“Of course I would love to seal it 3-0 but we are playing a strong combination tomorrow. Their players are ranked higher than ours. But we too have a good combination,” he added.