Davis Cup: India crashes out after Ramkumar's decisive defeat

Ramkumar Ramanathan lost to Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6 (1)-7, 3-6.

With Ramkumar losing to Denis Shapovalov, it is now fourth straight year that India has not managed to cross the Play-offs hurdle in the Davis Cup.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

India was left to battle it out in the Asian zone yet again after Ramkumar Ramanathan's defeat in the must-win fourth rubber as Denis Shapovalov steered Canada back to the elite Davis Cup World Group, here Sunday.

India needed Ramkumar to create some magic on the final day of the tie but his failure to convert chances proved crucial as world number 51 Shapovalov shut the door on the 
visitor with a decisive 6-3, 7-6(1), 6-3 win.

With India's fate already sealed, Yuki Bhambri won the dead fifth rubber against Brayden Schnur 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 as India lost the World Group Play-off tie 2-3 to the host.

In a see-saw battle, Yuki overcame lapse of concentration and an early break in the deciding set to finally convert his fifth match point and finish the indoor away tie.

It is now fourth straight year that India has not managed to cross the Play-offs hurdle, having lost to Serbia, Czech Republic and Spain in previous three attempts.

Canada thus has earned its spot back in the 16-nation World Group after losing the first round to Great Britain in February this year while India will again strive in the Asia/Oceania Group I in 2018 to get to the Play-offs stage.

In a nervous start, Ramkumar lost 11 straight points but gradually the serve and volley strategy helped him negate Shapovalov's fiery ground strokes.

The Chennai youngster took some time to settle but by the time he controlled the butterflies in his stomach, Shapovalov had gone up 4-1 with a break of serve in the opening set.

It was one-way traffic till the eighth game as the Canadian left-hander lost only three points till he came to serve out the opening set.

Ramkumar tried to serve and volley but Shapovalov was quick with his returns, hardly giving time to the Indian to charge the net to finish the points.

Ramkumar did pose a few question in the ninth game with some sharp returns, earning two breakpoints, but Shapovalov used his big serve to save both and served it out with an ace.

The Indian grew in confidence and put up a much better fight in the second set as he served two games at love. The chip and charge strategy paid good dividends as he led 5-4.

However, the good work came to a naught as he could not convert any of the four set points he earned in the 12th game and eventually lost the tie-breaker with his fifth double 
fault of the match.

Despite being put under pressure, Shapovalov won 13 of the last 15 points of the second set. That was the difference between the two players. While Ramkumar could take none of the six break chances he got, Shapovalov lifted himself from tricky situations easily.

Shapovalov broke the Indian at love in the sixth game to open up a 4-2 lead and clinched the tie in the ninth game on an unforced error from Ramkumar.