Chandigarh: Cramps defined the day on Friday. First Ramkumar Ramanathan prevailed against his Korean opponent for the latter cramped horribly and had to be carried off the court. Then India’s Saketh Myneni went on to cramp, clutch his thighs and then collapse on court. He took an injury time out and quite bravely went on till his body managed to fight back and ease his spasms. Myneni showed exemplary grit. Despite tottering around stiffly and in obvious pain, he managed to cling on to the match and prevailed in the fifth when the Korean cramped and collapsed on the other end! The tie now is heavily skewed in India’s favour with the scoreline reading 2-0.
It was so humid at the India-South Korea tie here that your correspondent was sweating profusely while typing this report in the stands. Conditions on court were decidedly worse. In both matches players succumbed to the heat and it was scrappy tennis more akin a street brawl where the stronger eventually prevails. It was nothing akin top-notch grass court tennis which is more about skill and deft touch.
Ramkumar Ramanthan prevailed against Seong-Chan Hong 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-5 (15-15) in the opening singles. The Korean cramped when returning serve and the spasm spread from his right quadriceps to his hip flexor and that was that as far as Hong’s challenge went. Ramkumar had also been feeling the heat and had been changing wet T shirts with an alacrity that always make one bless the invention of the washing machine. The plucky Korean had managed to hang in there and things may well have become too interesting for Ramkumar if the match would have been pushed into the fifth set.
Saketh Myneni was well in control in his match against Yong-Kyu Lim and led 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 before cramping horribly. He fell down on the court and was treated for a while before the Indian team decided to forfeit that game and set 3-6. Saketh took an injury timeout and then showed great courage to keep on playing till his cramps seemed to ease out a bit. He then used his huge serve to good effect to lead the fifth set 5-2 before the Korean collapsed completely. The Korean was in all sorts of physical trouble too and eventually his body just gave up. In the end, the man with more heart prevailed and Saketh can be proud of what has been an extraordinary effort.
India’s strength in Davis Cup at home has primarily stemmed from the conditions. Put them foreigners on a grass court that refuses to bounce high or true; shove them into hot and humid conditions where their games will wilt; hang in there till the conditions have done their bit and then chop them down. But the corner stone of this strategy was the fact that the guys who were to execute it, did have the legs to outlast their opponents. Think Leander Paes.
On Friday even as our debutant players overcame their nerves, the whir of over 50 massive pedestal fans and hot and sticky conditions, their own condition by the end of it all did not inspire great confidence that India could continue to tap the strategy of old for success going ahead.