In the end, the strategy to bank on their advantage in singles proved right as India prevailed over New Zealand in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie here on Sunday.
However, the controversy over the doubles combination following the omission of Rohan Bopanna in the first place and Saketh Myneni’s injury on the eve of the tie left a bad taste.
In the absence of Myneni, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Yuki Bhambri won both their singles to seal a 4-1 victory for India on Sunday.
With India leading 2-1, Ramanathan won it for India when he outclassed Finn Tearney in straight sets 7-5, 6-1, 6-0, claiming 11 consecutive games to emerge winner in two hours.
In the dead rubber, Yuki Bhambri fought back after dropping serve early in the first set and losing the second set to beat Jose Statham 7-5, 3-6, 6-4.
UZBEKS UP NEXT
The victory sealed for India a place in the Asia/Oceania Group 2 where they will play Uzbekistan, who defeated South Korea 3-1 in Gimcheon, Korea earlier on Sunday. India will host that tie from April 7-9 and will have a score to settle as they had lost to Uzbekistan 2-3 away in 2012.
New Zealand clearly lacked the firepower in singles to overcome India and the hosts established early ascendancy with Bhambri and Ramanathan winning the opening singles on Friday. The Kiwis could only capitalise on their strength in doubles. Their doubles players are both ranked higher than the Indians, and denied Leander Paes the chance of winning his 43rd doubles match and become the most successful doubles player in Davis Cup history.
Paes and Vishnu Vardhan, called in as a replacement for Myneni, lost 6-3, 3-6, 6-7, 3-6 in two-and-half hours.
Order was restored on Sunday as Ramanathan and Bhambri won the reverse singles. India’s advantage was evident as they lost only one set in four singles.
Serving big and capitalising with powerful ground strokes against an opponent who lost stream midway through the second set, Ramanathan was not troubled as Tearney could not play his usual game.
Ramanathan stuck to his plan but his was not a perfect performance. He had a modest first serve percentage of 51, but his conversion rate was higher as he won 82% of the points on first serve while Tearney bagged only 63%. Ramanathan won the crucial points in the first set and took advantage as his opponent’s game started falling apart. Tearney started well and had his chances in the close first set, but once he lost it, started committing more errors.
Ramanathan broke serve early in the second set after saving a break point in his very first service game. He was up 3-1 and won the next 11 games on the trot to seal a well-deserved victory. It was an erratic performance by Tearney who committed 16 double faults. By contrast, Ramanathan made nine doubles faults but also blasted 12 aces. He capitalised on six of the 15 breakpoints he earned while Tearney could not convert any of the five he had.
The statistics indicated the gap in the standard of the two players, but the Indians will have to be sharper next time as Uzbekistan is a stronger opponent and such tumultuous buildups won’t help.