Davis Cup: India off to a winning start

After Yuki Bhambri handled the initial hiccups in the first two sets, with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Finn Tearney, Ramkumar came out blazing with his big serves and explosive forehands on a slow court, to record a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over the seasoned Jose Statham in the second singles.

R. Ragu

Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan won their respective singles matches to put India in a comfortable position against New Zealand.   -  R. Ragu

Rankings go out of the window in Davis Cup, only if you let go!

Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan were forthright as they put the Kiwis in their place, to give India a 2-0 start in the Asia Oceania Davis Cup tie at the Balewadi Tennis Complex here on Friday.

After Yuki Bhambri handled the initial hiccups in the first two sets, with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Finn Tearney, Ramkumar came out blazing with his big serves and explosive forehands on a slow court, to record a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over the seasoned Jose Statham in the second singles.

That set up the stage for Leander Paes to go for a world record doubles victory on Saturday evening with his trusted partner Vishnu Vardhan, who has magically sprung into the tie from nowhere.

Having returned in splendid fashion into the big league of the professional circuit with impressive performances at the Chennai Open and the Australian Open, the 24-year-old Yuki was expected to play much better than what his rank of 368 may indicate. He did not disappoint, as he played increasingly better, bouncing back from early breaks of serve in the first two sets and not giving any break chance for the opponent in the third.

"I stepped up when required, especially in the third set. I did not let him runaway when he had the early leads. That was the key to the contest," said Yuki, understandably happy to give the host a strong start. He had been ranked a career-best 88 by the end of 2015 before a painful "tennis elbow" temporarily felled his aspirations to scale greater heights.

Even though Yuki had trained on the court diligently for the last few days, he needed to adjust to the style and pace of his opponent, the 26-year-old Finn Tearney, ranked a modest 414 in the world. Once Yuki got a grip over the spin and pace of the courts, he just ripped his opponent apart. Yuki had five aces and as many doublefaults and converted seven of 17 breakpoints that he forced. The Kiwi broke him thrice to lead 3-1 in the first set and 2-0 in the second.

Once Yuki saved two breakpoints and served out the second set in the 10th game, the Kiwi was literally looking down the barrel.

Ramkumar excelled with his big serves that reached up to 213 kilometres per hour. He whipped the forehand decisively many a time, and was quite crafty with his delectable slice that he floated with uncanny efficiency, past the onrushing opponent.

Having played the big boys of Spain in the last Davis Cup tie in September, the 22-year-old Ramkumar was well equipped to handle an opponent ranked 417 even though Jose Statham had the experience of having tamed some of the best players in the region from China and Chinese Taipei.

The key to the whole match was that Ramkumar did not drop his serve even once as he saved all the three breakpoints that he faced. He did grunt with a high decibel level often, much to the amusement of the sizeable crowd, but entertained the spectators with a quality fare, winning some of the long rallies.

The 276th ranked Ramkumar fired 15 aces and committed eight doublefaults in the match. He converted four of six breakpoints to make it a staightforward affair for the host.

Captain Anand Amritraj, on his last assignment, was quite relieved that the pleasant conditions in the evening, in front of an appreciative audience, brought out the best from the Indian boys.

The results:

India leads New Zealand 2-0 (Yuki Bhambri bt Finn Tearney 6-4, 6-4, 6-3; Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Jose Statham 6-3, 6-4, 6-3).

  Dugout videos