Sumit Nagal saved India’s blushes by beating Adam Moundir 6-3, 6-3 to help the hosts finish day one of the Davis Cup World Group II tie against Morocco 1-1 here on Saturday.
After debutant Sasikumar Mukund retired from his opening singles match against Yassine Dlimi, down 1-4 in the deciding set – in a performance that appeared to call into question his physical conditioning and mental make-up – the pressure was on Nagal, the India No.1, to calm the nerves.
The 26-year-old answered the call in expert fashion, dismantling Moundir in an hour and 15 minutes. The latter had the more power-packed game, but his penchant to find the point-ending shot early in every rally proved his undoing.
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It wasn’t as if Moundir didn’t compete. He broke Nagal’s serve once in the first set and stretched the Indian to a long hold in the fifth game of the second. But the World No.156 was calm when it mattered, defending superbly to come out victorious.
Earlier in the afternoon at the Vijayant Khand Mini Stadium, play started an hour-and-a-half late because of rain. Humidity soared, but it didn’t seem to bother Dlimi, who showed his intent to finish off points with a couple of crunching one-two punches.
But the match soon slipped into a battle of attrition, with the two fighting each other to a standstill (6-6). In the ensuing tie-break, Mukund found his attacking mojo, taking it to four points.
The fans erupted with joy and the time they took to settle back into their seats annoyed Dlimi. He was broken in the first game, and when Mukund led 4-3, 40-15, the match seemed as good as over.
The contest however took an inexplicable turn. Mukund slipped back into being passive, and his serve wobbled. All he did was to retrieve and the resultant short balls were picked off by Dlimi. The 20-year-old Moroccan broke in the 12th game to level the match.
Mukund called for the trainer towards the end of the second set. At the changeover, he appeared to have some discomfort in his right arm. The net effect was that even when he broke Dlimi in the opening game of the deciding set, the rubber didn’t look his.
The 26-year-old Indian called for the trainer again at 1-2 and soon fell behind 1-4. From the sidelines, Rohan Bopanna gestured that it was the mind that mattered. But it wasn’t long before the body dropped as well.
“The first match was disappointing,” said captain Rohit Rajpal. “I thought we had the match. A bit of experience was needed but Mukund consumed a lot of nervous energy and unfortunately started cramping.”
The results: India 1 Morocco 1 (Sasikumar Mukund lost to Dlimi Yassine 7-6(4), 5-7, 1-4 [retd]; Sumit Nagal Adam Moundir 6-3, 6-3).
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