Going to work on a Sunday afternoon wasn’t on Somdev Devvarman’s agenda. But with Sanam Singh unable to play due to a wrist injury, the top Indian player was summoned with just over an hour to go.
A tad under-prepared, Somdev came up with a professional performance to put away Indonesia’s David Agung Susanto 6-3, 6-1 in an hour an eight minutes. Yuki Bhambri then steamrolled Wisnu Adi Nugroho 6-0, 6-1 in 44 minutes in the second reverse singles. India had blanked Indonesia 5-0 in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group I relegation play-off tie on Sunday.
“I came to know (I had to play) at 2pm,” said Somdev. “It’s unfortunate. Sanam said he had something wrong with his wrist. He was about to warm up when they realised he couldn’t play.
“I was taking it easy for next week. So I slept in, had a late breakfast. I was going to come over late, just in time for the match. Then I was informed to bring my tennis bag, just in case, because you may have to play a match. I had to check if I had enough clothes, then came here and strung my racquet.”
Somdev, who has emerged as the leader of the younger lot in the past few months, sportingly took one for the team. Up against a player he had never across on the tour, Somdev took some time, firstly getting his body ready for the challenge, and then figuring out his rival across the net.
Luckily for him, Susanto did not have the pace or the weapons to hurt him. The scrappy, error-strewn first set gave way to a calmer show from the Indian even as the spectators drummed some life into the game with their incessant cheering. The Indian closed out the match with a forehand cross-court volley.
Yuki, who has impressed all including the rival camp after his straight-sets win over Indonesia’s No 1 player, Christopher Rungkat, on the opening day, was in a ruthless mood. He completely overpowered his opponent, slamming winners past the hapless Nugroho, to provide a definitive end to the tie.
India, who had already secured their berth in the Group I after the doubles win on Saturday, thus brought their Davis Cup campaign for the year to an end. Fortunately, they finished it on a stronger and happier note than what they began on. They also seem to have the key pieces of the puzzle in place as they look to make another run for the elite 16-team World Group.
Captain Misra bids farewell
Shiv Prakash Misra’s, at times tumultuous, reign as non-playing captain came to an end on Sunday as India completed a 5-0 win. The 71-year-old, who took up the job in September 2008, said “the team deserved a younger captain.”
He was put in charge after some of the members refused to play under Paes’ captaincy and demanded a non-playing captain to make sure there was no bias in selection. While India made it to the World Group twice under him, his term was tainted by the recent revolt, when one of the demands was a change in captaincy. “We have to put all that behind and start fresh. They have shown a lot of respect, and it was a great last tie for me,” he said.